Three geothermal plant projects in the UK recently received government funding and could be offering electricity and heat to nearby communities as early as 2013.
More than £2 million has been given to two separate developments to search for underground heat sources in Cornwall, one of which is at the Eden Project, the other near Redruth. Geothermal Engineering Ltd (GEL) has gained the grant from the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Mind you, the total cost for building one plant is well over £40 million. But the funding is a green light of sorts.
If successful the exploratory drilling projects would mark the first signs of a geothermal sector in the UK. Compare this to other European countries, like Germany which already has an estimated 150 geothermal power plant projects in the pipeline, and the importance of the venture is hard to miss.
The biggest potential for UK geothermal is expected to be in Cornwall where extensive research in the 1970s and 80s found significant opportunities in the granite rock. Both of the Cornish projects which received government funding mentioned a heavy reliance on this research.
Ryan Law, managing director of GEL, said their plant would produce 10MW of electricity for the national grid (3MW of which will be used to power the pumps and cooling equipment) and 55MW of renewable heat, which he hoped would be supplied to the local community.
Responding to concerns about noise, Law said although drilling would take four months the 50m high rigs would be 'very quiet - less than 50 decibels from more than 100m away'. He also said the entire plant would be no bigger than a bungalow.
Both the Redruth and Eden projects could be producing energy as soon as 2013.
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