Funding boost for Geothermal Engineering promises heat and power from Cornish hot rocks

Article by Amanda Jasi

GEOTHERMAL Engineering has secured £15m (US$18.4m) in funding that will enable it to start producing power on schedule at its first deep geothermal electricity and heat project in the UK.

The flagship United Downs project in Cornwall is expected to begin producing power in 2024. The first plant will deliver 2 MW(e) of baseload electricity and up to 10 MW(t) of zero carbon heat to housing currently under development in Cornwall.

Geothermal Engineering will also put funding towards preparing new sites in Cornwall that have recently received planning permission. In total, the investment will help initiate 25 MW(e) of renewable electricity and 100 MW(t) of renewable electricity across Geothermal Engineering’s portfolio.

Each new geothermal project across the country is expected to deliver 5 MW(e) of baseload power and 20 MW(t) of renewable heat energy for the local area. The plants are expected to take 36 months each to complete, and together produce enough electricity to power more than 70,000 UK homes.

Matthew Clayton, MD at funder Thrive Renewables, said that United Downs will provide “vital renewable baseload power to replace coal and gas, reliable heat to the local community, and could be the start of a whole new sustainable industry across Cornwall bringing green jobs and investment into the county”.

Graham Stuart, UK minister for energy security and net zero, said: “Geothermal energy holds enormous untapped potential as a renewable energy source, with the ability to generate around-the-clock power and heat for UK households.

“This investment will help the UK realise the potential of this exciting resource, providing skilled green jobs and supporting local industry in Cornwall, while helping to deliver a cleaner energy future.”

Funding was supplied by Kerogen Capital (£12m), a private equity firm focused on international energy, and renewable energy investment company Thrive Renewables (£3m). Thrive previously invested £3m in the United Downs project in 2020, and a further £470,000 towards planning applications for additional potential geothermal sites.

Linking to lithium

As the £15m funding was announced, Ryan Law, MD of Geothermal Engineering, said: “Alongside geothermal power and heat production, our trials at site suggest that there is also the opportunity to develop a strong, zero carbon domestic lithium industry linked to the power plants.”

Geothermal Engineering has found significant concentrations of lithium within deep geothermal fluid at United Downs and is working with partners to trial direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology to extract the key battery material.

The company worked with Cornish Lithium to build a pilot plant that uses DLE technology to recover lithium from geothermal waters at Geothermal Engineering’s United Downs deep geothermal project. The £4.2m UK-first pilot project was commissioned last March and received funding support from the UK government. Following commissioning and delivery of this GeoCubed project, Cornish Lithium acquired Geothermal Engineering’s 10% shareholding and became the sole owner.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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