Geothermal will be a game changer for Eden, Cornwall and the UK
– Sir Tim Smit
A long-planned project to drill for geothermal heat to power the Eden Project site in Cornwall will finally go ahead, after EU and Cornwall Council funding was approved.
The project ‒ described by Eden Project co-founder Sir Tim Smit as the biggest leap forward for Eden since it opened in 2001 ‒ will eventually provide clean and renewable energy to power the entire Eden Project site, as well as local businesses and the community.
A sum of £16.8m (US$21.7m, €19.5m) has been raised to deliver the first phase of the project, with £9.9m (US$12.8m, €11.5m) coming from Cornwall's final round of EU funding (the European Regional Development Fund), £1.4m (US$1.8m, €1.6m) from Cornwall Council, and the remaining amount from institutional investors.
In the first phase, a well will be drilled 4.5km down in the granite that lies below the Eden Project, with a research programme and a heat main also put in place. This will allow the extent of the resource to be proven, as well as supply a district heating system for Eden's Biomes, offices and greenhouses. A second phase would drill another 4.5km well and build an electricity plant. The completion of the second phase will enable the Eden Project to generate sufficient renewable energy to become carbon positive by 2023.
Sir Tim Smit said geothermal energy will be "a game-changer for Eden, Cornwall and the UK", and described it as "a missing piece of the jigsaw in a 24/7 clean renewable energy future".
"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's 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 that can be turned on and off when we need it.
"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 has been formed to deliver the geothermal plan: Eden Geothermal Limited (EGL), whose shareholders are the Eden Project itself, leading geothermal development and consultancy group EGS Energy, and BESTEC (UK), which is affiliated to BESTEC GmbH, a specialist geothermal developer and drilling advisor. Drilling begins in Q2/Q3 2020.
Augusta Grand, director of EGL, 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."