Cornwall’s Geothermal Ambitions

Geothermal energy or heat from the earth is a natural source of clean energy and it is sustainable. This is the reason a team in Cornwall is planning the UK’s first geothermal power station. The aim is to have a zero-carbon source of electricity.

Geothermal energy can be extracted at any time of day and night, 365 days a year, making it arguably one of the best ways to produce electricity on earth. The site in Cornwall has some of the most accessible and abundant natural resources such as wind, sun and geothermal heat, making it one of the best places to start. If the geothermal power site in Cornwall goes ahead and is a success, it could mean greater plans in the future for other areas of the UK, especially ones that have been identified as having geothermal resources.

Geothermal energy utilises the natural heat of the earth’s crust. Two holes are drilled into the ground – this is not a quick process as the depths are usually around 3-10 km. The ones drilled in Cornwall are predicted to be between 2.5 km and 4.5 km which will be the deepest in the UK. Water is then pumped into the shallower hole and is heated by the natural volcanic heat; this heat is then extracted in the form of steam which can be used to power a turbine which in turn produces electricity.

geothermal energy
Geothermal energy extraction

This process is, of course, not without its problems. There have been instances of these projects causing minor earthquakes and as with any drilling of this kind, it will be important that things such as speed and volume of water are controlled but these risks are minor compared to fracking and other forms of fossil fuel extraction.

Ryan law said;

“Any relative risk of induced seismicity is very well controlled.”

This kind of technology can only be used in certain locations, so it is debatable whether this can become something bigger and be economically viable. Another issue raised is the potential of water being extracted, releasing carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide. The success of the project will depend on the fact that little to no greenhouse gasses are released or created during the process.

Despite these possible potential issues, it is hoped the project near Redruth proves a success, as the results will be a great indicator of whether this kind of scheme has potential and is to be used more across the UK in the future.

Ryan law said;

 “For the broader industry it is a very important project. Should this project succeed it really will be a kick-start to the geothermal industry in the UK,”

Funding has been issued by the EU at a figure of around £10.6 m with Cornwall council offering £2.4 m – the rest of the £5 m has been raised by crowdfunding. The project should take around 5 months for the first well to be completed, hoping to be fully operating by 2020.

Tony Batchelor told the guardian;

“This £18 m is basically our chip in the game. Then we look at delivering bigger and better projects.”

Another fantastic step forward for clean, green energy!