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The geothermal debate is “heating up”

Thu, 07 January, 2021

It is reported (BBC News) that Geothermal Engineering Limited (GEL) and Ecotricity (Ecotricity) have signed an agreement to supply the National Grid with base-load (predictable/reliable) electricity, which could power as many as 10,000 homes!

The power will be generated from the United Downs Deep Geothermal site (UDDGP) in Cornwall, utilising the heat from rocks which occurs naturally from the within the Earth. The site is a pilot project to investigate and validate the viability of deep geothermal as an environmentally sound means of supplying carbon neutral heat and energy.

Unlike most other “renewable” energy (RE) solutions, geothermal has a minimal environmental impact, as once the wells have been drilled, the turbine housing or surface heat exchangers can be housed within a low key industrial building, often taking less space than the car park of a small office space.

There are still many doubters about the efficacy or scalability of geothermal, yet it is an indisputable fact that the deeper you go below the surface, the more the temperature increases; in some areas this phenomenon (known as geothermal gradient) is more marked than other areas, just as some areas have more wind or solar rays!

With increased research into deep drilling methodologies, a better understanding of geothermal resource capabilities and public awareness that just because they do not see energy being produced, does not mean that it isn’t, deep geothermal has to be part of the long-term solution to negative carbon energy, for as long as our planet maintains a heated core!

One other major advantage that deep geothermal (or any geothermal source) has over all other RE technologies, is that it supplies heat (which can also be used to cool buildings), without the need to convert it from one energy source to another and at a constant predictable temperature. No need to grow crops that cannot be eaten, no need to use natural resources that cannot be replaced, no need to blight the landscape!

There is also the question around energy security! As we continue to build wind farms, further and further from our shorelines in deeper water, are we really considering all of the risks that these facilities are vulnerable to? The developers, undoubtedly, consider extreme weather, benign weather, geothechnical hazards, shipping risks etc., but how exposed are they to hostile foreign powers? Whilst many may think that geothermal is not scalable and only suitable for some local “rare” geological settings, it does have far greater security than something towering over 90m above the ocean; so, let us think about energy as part of our security, as well as part of our everyday lives.

Let us be hopeful that such a scenario never happens, but like all insurance policies, it is there when you need it.

For now, Covid continues to dominate our news and daily struggles, with countries blaming each other for the situation; what we all continue to overlook is just how frail human society is, so the more aids we have to survival, the better.

One last thought – climate change and environmental security are inextricably linked! Three hundred years ago, when our forefathers started burning coal to improve everyone’s lot in life, nobody foresaw the disastrous situation we are now in. Let’s not repeat the process of using rare, unrenewable resources, just to keep global warming at bay! Nature has the answers, scientists just need to understand them.

Once again, congratulations to GEL and Ecotricity, for adding energy to the debate.

Dr Ryan Law, Managing Director, GEOTHERMAL ENGINEERING LTD is advisor to Geo-Drill consortium and we wish him good luck!

Article courtesy: Kevin Mallin, Managing Director, Geolorn Ltd


Kevin Mallin, Managing Director, Geolorn Ltd
Kevin Mallin, Managing Director, Geolorn Ltd