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UK: GeoScience asks for government funding

Pernzance, Cornwall, UK (source: flickr/ The Brit_2, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 20 May 2010

UK company GeoScience is asking for government funding for first phase of a 10MW electricity and 50 MW thermal energy geothermal pilot project in the UK.

In news from the UK, the recently formed coalition government is said to “likely face an early test of its commitment to the renewable energy sector after the company behind plans for the UK’s first commercial-scale geothermal power plant revealed this week that it is likely to require government funding to move forward with the project.

Cornwall-based GeoScience has developed plans for a pilot project near Redruth that would see three bore-holes drilled to depths of around 4,500 metres.

According to Peter Ledingham, operations director for GeoScience, the bore-holes are expected to access hot rocks capable of heating injected water to temperatures of over 200 degrees centrigrade. The resulting steam will then be harnessed to generate an estimated 10MW of electricity and a further 50MW of thermal energy.

“This is a sizeable project,” he added. “You are looking at enough electricity for around 10,000 homes and enough heat for 20 hospitals.”

However, while the company has completed its technical preliminary work and is hoping to secure planning permission next month, it is struggling to line up the investment required to drill the first bore-hole.

“We have a lot of investors who have expressed interest in coming on board once we have successfully drilled the first hole, but in the current climate they are understandably a bit worried about the risk involved with drilling the first hole,” admitted Ledingham. “As a result, we are looking to the government to fund the first phase of the project.”

GeoScience reckons that it requires a £10m (US$14m) investment to fund the first phase of the project, then a further £30m (US$43m) to complete the second two bore-holes and the geothermal power plant.

Ledingham said that if the funding is forthcoming the company should be able to move quickly to begin drilling on the first bore-hole next year. The additional two bore-holes would then be drilled in 2012, with the power plant coming online by 2014. He added that if the project is successful, it could provide a template for similar plants in other parts of Cornwall.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said that the government had made a number of funding commitments to the geothermal sector in recent years, including the launch late last year of a £6m Deep Geothermal Challenge Fund, which aims to provide investment for pioneering geothermal projects.

Geothermal energy is also eligible for higher levels of subsidy through the existing Renewable Obligation scheme, while heat from geothermal power plants is also expected to be covered by the planned Renewable Heat Incentive scheme that is due to be introduced next year.”

Source: BusinessGreen