Eden Co-founder Sir Tim Smit said that securing funds and thereby the chance to spark an energy revolution amounts to the biggest leap forward for Eden since it opened in a former clay quarry near St. Austell in 2001.
Sir Tim 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 center 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.”
The funding has been secured from a mixture of public and private sources. Cornwall’s final round of EU funding, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), has contributed £9.9 million. Cornwall Council has put in £1.4 million. Institutional investors have contributed the remaining £5.5 million.
The ERDF funding is administered by the UK Government’s Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
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.”
The funds will pay for the first phase of the project - drilling one well, a research program and a heat main, to prove the extent of the resource 4.5km down in the granite that lies beneath the Eden site.
This first well will initially supply a district heating system for Eden’s Biomes, offices and greenhouses. It will pave the way for the second phase - another 4.5km well and an electricity plant.
Completing the second phase will mean that Eden will be generating sufficient renewable energy to become carbon positive by 2023 as well as aiming to be able to provide heat and power for the local area.
Dr. Robin Shail, Senior Lecturer in Geology at the University of Exeter, commented, “Cornwall is rapidly re-establishing itself as the UK centre for deep geothermal energy and we’re delighted to be involved in this major project in which we will contribute towards achieving research objectives and training of the next generation of scientists and engineers to work in this emerging sector.”
To deliver the plan, a new company, Eden Geothermal Limited (EGL) has been formed. The EGL shareholders are:
• Eden Project Limited, the world-renowned educational charity and visitor attraction.
• EGS Energy Limited, a leading geothermal development and consultancy group with experience on commercial scale projects in Cornwall and around the world.
• BESTEC (UK) Limited, which is affiliated with BESTEC GmbH, the specialist geothermal developer and drilling advisor.
Augusta Grand, Director of Eden Geothermal Limited, who has led Eden’s geothermal project for the last seven years, concluded. “It is great that we’re now getting going on this project. 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.”