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Drilling begins on UK's first geothermal electricity plant

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Drilling for the first deep geothermal power plant, the United Downs Deep Geothermal Power project (UDDGP), has began near St Day, Cornwall.  

The plant, run by Geothermal Engineering Ltd (GEL) as a demonstration of what geothermal power can offer the UK, will supply power for 3,000 homes when fully operational.  

Two deep wells will be drilled, one reaching 4.5km into the granitic rock of the earth’s crust. Water is then pumped up and into a heat exchanger, and then returned to the well to be re-heated in a continuous cycle.  

The well is the deepest geothermal well ever drilled on UK soil.

First deep geothermal electricity plant starts drilling in Cornwall

Drilling for the first deep geothermal power plant, the United Downs Deep Geothermal Power project (UDDGP).

This is one of the few sustainable energy generation methods that can operate continually, unlike wind and solar, which depend on day and weather cycles.  

GEL managing director Ryan Law told New Civil Engineer that the idea of geothermal energy wasn’t to compete with more established renewable energy like off-shore wind, but could play an important role in urban areas:  

“Geothermal isn’t designed to compete with off-shore wind for example,” Law said. “But as a combined heat and power solution, geothermal energy could help the UK achieve its renewable heat targets, especially in small urban areas.” 

He added: “We are targeting areas already broken up and permeable to water. There are natural follow up sites in Devon and Cornwall, as well as Scotland for other early stage projects.” 

The project has received approximately £18M in funding, including £10.6M from the European Regional Development Fund, £2.4M from Cornwall Council and £5M in crowd funding through Abundance Capital.   

MP for Truro and Falmouth Sarah Newton said Cornwall could play host to more projects like the UDDGP:  

“The UDDGP is the UKs first deep geothermal power project and, as such, will help trigger further development of a renewable energy source beneath our feet that is available 24/7 and offers both electricity and heat,” she said.  

“Renewable heat sources will be vital for decarbonising our energy systems and I look forward to seeing many more of these types of projects in Cornwall and beyond.” 

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