After more than a decade of hard work, steam has finally emerged from the United Downs site near Redruth.
The energy project, which taps into the hot rocks at the far south-west of Britain, has long been heralded as a bold and imaginative site that has the ability to prove the feasibility of geothermal power in the UK. Now, those working on the site believe that it could produce electricity and heat within the next calendar year.
The plan is for the power plant – which will be built in 2022 – to feed electricity into the grid and send heat to a local rum distillery and a new housing estate. By 2026, Geothermal Energy Limited also hope to build four more sites in Cornwall.
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How does geothermal power generation work?
The new plant will generate energy by pumping water from a deep well, where temperatures regularly reach 180C. This process then creates steam, which is then fed through a heat exchanger. At this point, this extracted heat is converted into electricity. Following this, water is re-injected into the ground in order to pick up more heat from the rocks and create a continuous cycle.
Although the project is currently isolated to Cornwall, it’s thought that there’s potential for similar geothermal power stations in other parts of the UK, including Cheshire and Staffordshire.
Mike Childs, head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth, said: “Geothermal energy has great potential in some areas of the UK, particularly in Cornwall, but also other old mining areas where heat can be captured from mine water.”
Childs added that in most parts of the country, air-source heat pumps would be the best option for heating people’s homes as the UK transitions to a fossil fuel-free future.
What does this mean for customers?
The creation of the new power plant in Cornwall could be a vital step in helping the UK achieve its ambitious net zero carbon goals. In addition, it will also be essential for proving that geothermal power can work in the country. If so, it will help green power become more widely available.
Crucially for customers, the introduction of this new form of green energy could lead to a greater choice of energy tariffs and cheaper energy bills. After all, if geothermal power plants can increase the production of green energy and create a surplus amount of renewables, then wholesale prices may drop and bills will be cheaper as a result.
Of course, many green energy deals are available today and our research has shown that many of the country’s best energy suppliers currently offer tariffs that either feature 100% renewable electricity, or at least a greener fuel mix.
If you don’t currently receive renewable energy or you’d like to switch to a greener tariff, then you should run an online energy comparison and switch provider. Just take a couple of minutes to provide the service with a few basic details about your home and your energy use and you’ll be able to see all of the best energy deals near you, including all the cheapest green energy tariffs.
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