A £16.8million fund has been secured for the first stage of the Eden Project’s ground-breaking geothermal heat and power project, the Cornish company has confirmed.
Eden has partnered with EGS Energy to campaign for Cornwall to have clean, green technology and now the fund, from the EU and Cornwall Council, will allow them to start drilling a well on Eden’s site near St Austell next summer.
The Eden Project, famous for its iconic biomes, is set on a former clay quarry and the first well will be sunk 4.5km deep into granite crust beneath.
Sir Tim Smit, Eden co-founder, said: “Since we began, Eden has had a dream that the world should be powered by renewable energy. 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.
“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.”
Cornwall’s final round of EU funding, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), has contributed £9.9m to the project, Cornwall Council has put in £1.4m and Institutional investors have contributed the remaining £5.5m.
The EU (ERDF) funding is administered by the UK Government’s Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
The fund will cover costs for the first phase of the project – drilling one well, a research programme and a heat main. The first well will initially supply a district heating system for Eden’s biomes, offices and greenhouses, and the second phase will introduce another 4.5km well and an electricity plant.
It is expected that Eden will be generating enough renewable energy to become carbon positive by 2023 as well as aiming to be able to provide heat and power for the local area, once the second phase of the project reaches completion.
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.”
Guy Macpherson-Grant, managing director of EGS Energy, said: “It is exciting that this geothermal development is under way. The geology in the county is particularly well-suited for cost-efficient heat and power generation, and St Austell benefits from particularly high heat flows.”
A new company, Eden Geothermal Limited (EGL) has been formed to deliver the plan. Augusta Grand, director of EGL, who has led Eden’s geothermal project for the last seven years, said: “Geothermal has huge potential to provide baseload heat and power on a very small surface footprint.
“We look forward to being able to demonstrate the advantages of the technology to Eden’s one million visitors a year and encourage greater investment.”
Richard Day, non-executive chairman of Eden Geothermal Limited, said: “The support we have received from all our stakeholders will allow us to prove the resource in this part of Cornwall. Alongside the other geothermal project in Cornwall at United Downs, we are looking to stimulate a whole new Green Tech industrial cluster in Cornwall, on the back of the centuries of mining heritage in the county.”
The Rt Hon Jake Berry MP, Coastal Communities and Local Growth Minister, said: “Thanks to £9.9million of Government funding, work can begin immediately on this exciting project which will unlock the rich geothermal resource beneath the site and allow the full untapped potential of renewable energy sources to be fully utilised.
“This will be essential in tackling climate change, exploring alternative energy sources and ensuring Cornwall can take full advantage of all the economic opportunities that lie ahead.”
Glenn Caplin, chief executive of the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This is another huge step forward in the drive to create a geothermal industry in Cornwall, using our natural assets to decarbonise our economy and create high-value jobs.
“Renewable energy is both an environmental and an economic opportunity for Cornwall, which is why clean growth is at the heart of our emerging Local Industrial Strategy.”