£16.8m funding for geothermal power plant

The Eden Project has secured £16.8 million of funding for a geothermal heat and power project, with drilling due to start on the site next summer. This funding follows a 10-year campaign to bring the technology to Cornwall, where the visitor attraction opened in a former clay quarry in 2001. It comes from a mixture of public and private sources, with £9.9 million from the European Regional Development Fund and £1.4 million from Cornwall Council. The £16.8 million will pay for the first phase of the project, which will involve drilling almost three miles (4.5km) into the granite crust beneath Eden.

This first well will initially supply a district heating system for the centre’s biomes, offices and greenhouses and pave the way for a second well and electricity plant.

Completing the second phase would mean that Eden would generate sufficient renewable energy to become carbon positive by 2023, as well as aiming to provide heat and power for the local area.

Sir Tim Smit, co-founder of Eden, said the funding had provided the chance to spark an energy revolution.

“The sun can provide massive solar power and the wind has been harnessed by humankind for thousands of years but because both are intermittent and battery technology cannot yet store all we need there is a gap.

The use of renewable energy is not a new technique and some forms have been used for over 2,000 years.

“We believe the answer lies beneath our feet in the heat underground that can be accessed by drilling technology that pumps water towards the centre of the Earth and brings it back up superheated to provide us with heat and electricity.

“The missing piece of the jigsaw in a 24/7 clean renewable energy future is this baseload.

“Now we have the green light and the funding to start drilling we are determined to make this technology work.

“And we want to work with others all over the world – sharing knowledge and encouraging the change as fast as is humanly possible.”

A new company, Eden Geothermal Limited, has been formed, consisting of the Eden Project Limited, EGS Energy Limited and BESTEC (UK) Limited. Academic and research services will be provided by the University of Exeter. Sir Tim added: “Geothermal will be a game changer for Eden, Cornwall and the UK.

“The heat will be used for the biomes, to grow food, as well as helping support the development of our long-awaited hotel.

“Once up and running, our plant will provide more than enough renewable electricity and heat for the whole site, as well as for the local area. We will be drilling for good energy rather than bad.”

Solar power isn’t just a daytime deal – power from the sun’s rays can be stored in salt and used at night too. A power plant in Spain soaks up sun by day and pumps out 7 hours of power to the surrounding area by night.