Dig deep for energy

The Eden Project has unveiled plans for the UK’s first power plant to produce electricity from geothermal energy – the Earth’s own heat.

The Eden Project is the Cornish ecotourism attraction which features the world’s largest greenhouse, and founder Tim Smit (pictured) hopes the plant will be built on the Eden site near St Austell, and will power the whole complex.

It will be based around two wells, driven down 4km into the Cornish granite where the bedrock itself is hot enough to heat water to 150 degrees, which will then produce steam to power an electricity-generating turbine. Geothermal requires a huge amount of power to operate, but still returns an additional 3 units of power for every one expended.

The plant should be able to produce about three megawatts of carbon-neutral electricity – about the same as a large wind turbine – which will be more than enough to supply Eden’s needs. Power left over may be sold to the national grid.

There is already a deep geothermal plant in Southampton which supplies heat to buildings in the city centre, but this is believed to be the first such facility in Britain to generate electric power.

Engineers from EGS Energy believe that the vast quantity of geothermal energy stored in Cornish granite would eventually enable them to make a significant contribution to UK energy needs – as much as 10 per cent of the total.

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