Cornwall’s United Downs geothermal project signs power and heat purchase agreements

Cornwall’s United Downs geothermal project signs power and heat purchase agreements Drilling rig at United Downs project site, Cornwall/ UK (source: GEL Ltd.)
Alexander Richter 4 Jan 2021

The developer of the UK's first geothermal power plant signs energy agreements with green electricity company Ecotricity for power and with Cornish Geothermal Distillery Company for heat supply.

Following the latest round of successful testing at its deep geothermal site on the United Downs site in Cornwall, Geothermal Engineering Limited (GEL) has struck agreements for the purchase of both the baseload renewable electricity and the zero carbon heat from the plant.  Ecotricity has agreed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for the electricity that will be produced 24/7 from the power plant.  In addition, the Cornish Geothermal Distillery Company (CGDC) has submitted plans for the UK’s first geothermally heated biome which will be used to mature and then distil sustainable rum.

The agreement with Ecotricity will see a minimum of 3 MW of baseload electricity produced by the UK’s first deep geothermal power plant distributed to Ecotricity’s customers via the National Grid.  It is the first time that geothermal electricity will be produced and sold in the UK.

CGDC propose to bring ethically produced, Bonsucro* rum to the site, lay it down in oak casks and store it in the maturation biome to enhance the product’s quality and flavour. From the summer of 2022, a total of 640,000 litres of rum is anticipated to be tropically matured over a period of five to ten years. The team hopes that a demonstrable success of this “Catalyst Phase” could draw further interest and investment into the creation of a full GBP 30million Cornish geothermal rum distillery with potential to create up to 100 jobs.

Dr Ryan Law, founder and Managing Director of Geothermal Engineering commented: “We have been working for many years towards this point and are absolutely thrilled to see the different aspects of this pioneering geothermal power plant coming together.  The testing we have completed recently on the wells, including the deepest well ever drilled on shore in the UK (over 3 miles deep), shows the significant potential of geothermal energy to supply heat and power, not only at our site but right the way across Cornwall.  This comes on the back of the recent discovery of high lithium content in our geothermal water.  We are very excited for the industry, investment and jobs this renewable resource could bring to the region.”

Dale Vince, CEO of Ecotricity commented:  “Geothermal is a really exciting form of energy that is, as yet untapped in the UK.  We’re pleased to be part of this project and to add the power to our customer’s energy mix. It has a big role to play in our plans to decarbonise the country.”

On top of this recent success, GEL is hoping to secure planning for future sites over the next two years.  Each site will aim to produce a minimum of 5 MW of renewable baseload electricity and up to 20 MW of renewable heat which will be available 24/7.   It is also looking into the possibility of Lithium and other mineral extraction from the deep geothermal water.  GEL and its partners will be looking to raise circa GBP 200m to develop the follow-on sites.  The United Downs project is backed by Thrive Renewables plc and the European Regional Development Fund.

The United Downs project was established by Geothermal Engineering Ltd. (GEL) to demonstrate the potential of the deep geothermal resource in the UK to produce both zero carbon electricity and heat.  The United Downs plant is to supply up to 3 MW of electricity, which is enough energy to power 6,000 homes.  The electricity and heat energy produced from the plant will be continuous (24/7) as geothermal energy does not suffer from the peaks and troughs that many other renewable power sources are subject to.

In February 2020, Thrive Renewables announced its intention to invest up to GBP 6.5m to complete the final rounds of testing and to build the geothermal power plant at United Downs.

Source: Company release by email