With the UK’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, geothermal energy generation has taken a high priority. 

Research has shown that commercial geothermal solutions can reduce household energy bills by over 50%, while reducing carbon emissions by as much as 80%, Interesting Engineering reports.

A new geothermal plant at the Eden Project in Cornwall was activated recently, the first deep geothermal project to launch in the UK for 37 years. 

The new project was partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Cornwall County Council. “The well cost about £24m to build and the current system will produce around 1.4MW of energy,” the Financial Times reported. 

Despite its high cost, the project aims to bolster geothermal energy from Earth’s core and reduce the Eden Project's energy bills by about 40%.

The plant taps five kilometres below the Earth’s surface through the geothermal well at the Eden Project, unlike previous shallow geothermal projects in the country.

Plant objectives

Executive director of Durham Energy Institute Professor Jon Gluyas said “this will have a lot of eyes on it, and rightly so. It will demonstrate that deep geothermal can generate low-carbon heat for customers around the region”.

The objective is to harness hot water with temperatures of up to 200C and function as a crucial source of heating for the nearby greenhouses and enclosed rainforest biomes, says the Financial Times

Additionally, the media reports that the geothermal power generated through the new system is reliable for around-the-clock energy, and has very low emissions. The hot water from below ground can be used to heat and generate electricity.

The UK government will announce policy recommendations after assessing the plant’s potential. In the coming weeks, it will publish a white paper on deep geothermal energy according to the Financial Times

Costly but effective

Costs have proven to be an impediment to launching this project and other similar deep geothermal projects.

The UK faces challenges in drilling wells with extended depth as the country’s location is away from tectonic plate boundaries, unlike Iceland. It implies that heat is further away from the Earth’s surface and thus, drilling deep towards the Earth’s core is the only solution to reach energy goals.

Chief executive of Eden Geothermal Gus Grand said that the Eden Project's artificial rainforest is an expensive thing to heat. 

Drilling through granite is extremely hard and pursuing the task during the pandemic proved to be very expensive. “It is a demonstration – it is a research project. If you were doing a commercial project, you wouldn’t do it like this.” 

Such initiatives are also time-consuming especially due to the lack of power lines – gridlock, he added. “We would love to turn it into electricity but it’s a nightmare – my grid connection is for December 2036.”