A drilling rig is about to arrive at the Eden Project in Cornwall to bore almost three miles down into the granite crust in search of “hot rocks” that will be used to warm the attraction’s biomes and other buildings.
The first of the lorries carrying a 450-tonne, 55-metre-high drilling rig will arrive on the outer edge of the site next week, and if all goes well the geothermal scheme will begin operating by Christmas or early next year.
Eventually, a second borehole is to be created that it is hoped will generate heat for some local businesses in the St Austell area.
The Eden Project co-founder Sir Tim Smit could hardly contain his excitement at the progress of a scheme that has been years in the planning. “Forget the official po-faced language about sustainability and our energy future,” he said. “This is every romantic’s dream. Jules Verne would be smiling, as would Brunel, as will every Briton worried that we had lost our island mojo.”
This past year has been a period of intense activity in preparing the site close to Eden’s main visitor gate and arranging contracts with a host of service providers. The diggers rolled in last autumn and despite some of the wettest weather seen in Cornwall in recent years, the drilling apron, service roads and water storage lagoon were completed. A viewing area has been erected to enable visitors to come and observe the ongoing project safely from a nearby path.
The first phase of drilling is expected to take five months, and when complete will allow water to be injected down the borehole to be superheated by the hot rocks beneath. Hot water will then be pumped back to the top through a pipe suspended in the same borehole, generating heat initially to warm Eden’s rainforest and Mediterranean biomes, offices, kitchens and greenhouses. The same water will then be recirculated to be superheated and used again.
As long as this first phase is successful, the plan is to raise money to drill a second well close to the first to a similar depth, bringing even more heated water to the surface, which may be used by local businesses and allow the generation of electricity.
The project is being delivered by Eden Geothermal Limited (EGL), a three-way partnership between Eden Project Limited, EGS Energy Limited, a geothermal development and consultancy group, and Bestec (UK) Limited, which is affiliated with Bestec GmbH, a specialist geothermal developer and drilling adviser.
For the first well, EGL secured £17m funding from a combination of European regional development fund, Cornwall council and commercial funding.