The new funding is subject to conditions and will be used to complete power production at the United Downs plant by 2024, as well as prepare new geothermal sites in Cornwall which have recently received planning permission. In total, the investment will help to initiate 25 MWe of renewable electricity and 100 MWth of renewable heat across GEL’s portfolio by 2028.
Kerogen Capital, a private equity firm focused on international energy, will fund the investment through its dedicated energy transition platform, CelerateX. The investment is the latest in a string of investments it has made into geothermal developers and projects across Europe, building a leading portfolio in this emerging technology. In addition to the current funding, renewable energy investment company, Thrive Renewables, made its first commercial investment of £3 million into United Downs in January 2020 to support final testing of wells at the site, as well as £0.47 million in 2021 to fund planning applications for additional potential geothermal sites.
“Geothermal resources have the potential to produce carbon free electricity and heat 24/7 within UK borders and we are delighted to welcome this further investment in our journey to realising the huge potential of this important renewable energy source” said Ryan Law, Managing Director of Geothermal Engineering Ltd. “We are excited to work with both local and national Government to maximise this opportunity and make the UK a world leader in geothermal energy. With its mining and industrial heritage, and geological expertise the UK is well placed to succeed. Alongside geothermal power and heat production, our trials at site suggest that there is also the opportunity to develop a strong, zero carbon domestic lithium industry linked to the power plants.”
The United Downs project is expected to start producing power in 2024 and represents the UK’s first integrated deep geothermal power and heat project. The first plant will deliver 2 MWe of baseload electricity and up to 10 MWth of zero carbon heat to be used in a large housing development at Langarth, being developed by Cornwall Council. GEL successfully drilled and tested two wells at United Downs in 2019 and 2020, including a production well drilled 5 kilometres underground. Beyond United Downs, GEL is also developing new geothermal projects across the county, each anticipated to deliver 5 MWe of baseload power and 20 MWth of renewable heat energy for the local area. The new plants will each take approximately 36 months to complete and together will produce enough electricity to power over 70,000 UK homes.
The UK has significant geothermal resources which, if harnessed, can play an important role in both the UK’s energy security and its transition to net zero. Geothermal technology offers a homegrown, low carbon and sustainable form of energy. Crucially, this technology is capable of generating 24/7 baseload power, enabling the UK to diversify its energy market whilst providing large scale and predictable capacity. Furthermore, the ability to feed into local heating networks for residents provides a solution to the UK’s longstanding challenge of decarbonising heat.
The development of the UK’s geothermal industry will benefit local communities by attracting new business, jobs and inward investment. The Renewable Energy Association and Arup have estimated that the development of deep geothermal projects in the UK could fulfil the UKs entire residential demand for 100 years and create as many 10,000 direct and 25,000 indirect jobs by 2050.
GEL has also found significant concentrations of lithium within the deep geothermal fluid at United Downs and is working with partners to trial direct extraction (DLE) technology to extract this key battery mineral.
This discovery demonstrates the potential of geothermal to help drive the growth of a domestic lithium industry both unlocking the UK’s Net Zero goal and is aligned with the Government’s recent Critical Mineral Strategy.
“Geothermal energy holds enormous untapped potential as a renewable energy source, with the ability to generate around-the-clock power and heat for UK households” said Rt Hon Graham Stuart MP, Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero. “This investment will help the UK realise the potential of this exciting resource, providing skilled green jobs and supporting local industry in Cornwall, while helping to deliver a cleaner energy future.”
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