'Hot rocks' geothermal energy plant promises a UK first for Cornwall
Cornwall's mining heritage will be thrust into the 21st century after plans to build the country's first geothermal energy plant were given the go-ahead.
Work is now expected to begin on the United Downs Industrial Park near Redruth, West Cornwall, after the £40million project was given planning permission by Cornwall Council.
Members of the council's strategic planning committee unanimously voted in favour of Geothermal Engineering Ltd's plan, which councillors said could put Cornwall "on the map".
The groundbreaking project will involve three wells being drilled deep into the rock. This would create energy by allowing water to be super-heated by the Earth.
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Some nearby residents have voiced concerns about the visual and noise impacts of the drilling and the turbines included as part of the project. Others have raised objections on the grounds that the project is, in their view, "not needed". However, committee members were guided by council officers, who recommended giving the scheme the green light.
Case officer Ellis Crompton- Brown's report, presented to the committee, recognised local concerns, but also identified the need for reducing dependency on non-renewable resources.
The report added: "Issues regarding the impact on local amenity in relation to noise during construction and drilling would be limited in time and potential noise from operations could be controlled by planning condition.
"The development would assist in contributing towards renewable energy generation, maximising environmental and economic benefits while minimising adverse local impacts."
Ryan Law, managing director of Geothermal Engineering Ltd, said: "With the development of our plant we want to make deep geothermal energy a significant contributor to the UK's energy portfolio.
"Not only can we contribute renewable, continuous power to the grid, we also want to change the way the UK meets its heat demands by offering energy-efficient, decentralised heat. The Department of Energy and Climate Change has already estimated that deep geothermal technology could supply between one and five GW of baseload, renewable electricity by 2030."
The £40 million project is considered a key component in the aim to position the South West at the forefront of green technology.
Cornwall is seen as one of the best locations for pioneering renewable technology, such as the Wave Hub project off the Hayle coastline, because of its plentiful wind and wave power opportunities.
Cornwall councillor Neil Plummer, the former Independent Group member who recently joined Mebyon Kernow, backed the scheme.
He said: "The one fundamental question we have to ask is: Is this to the benefit of the public?
"I believe it is. Our geological wealth could be the answer to the future of the oil crisis.
"We know we're going to run out of resources and I don't think we can argue against this massively important opportunity.
"We can be the first Celtic country to be self-sufficient."
The council's planning and housing cabinet member, Mark Kaczmarek, himself a former miner, added: "This will put Cornwall on the map. Many people support this and I think we will see more applications of a similar nature in the future."
Drilling work will begin in early 2011.