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Saturday, 29 November 2014

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Are hot rocks under Cumbria the way to heat homes?

Cumbria is sitting on top of a vast untapped source of energy which could generate enough power to heat thousands of homes.

A report just published has identified more than 900 square miles in the county which could generate energy from hot rocks, deep under the earth’s surface.

These geothermal heat sources could be harnessed through bore holes that penetrate three miles into the earth’s crust, providing a potentially unlimited and carbon neutral energy source.

The study, by the projects firm Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM), reveals a large swathe of hotspots in Cumbria, stretching from Egremont in the west to the east across the central Lakeland fells.

There is a particular geothermal hotspot just to the west of Penrith.

Experts estimate that in that area, at a depth of 4.3 miles beneath the surface, the rocks are particularly hot, with their temperature reaching more than 200 Centigrade.

Tim Jackson, a geothermal engineer with SKM, said Cumbria is just one of several hot spots identified in a British Geological Society survey carried out after the drilling of deep bore holes.

He said power can be generated by pumping cold water on to hot rocks.

Superheated, it is then brought back to the surface and used to power an electricity generator.

Mr Jackson said: “Each bore hole would go to a depth of about three miles and cost £5 million to £10 million each to drill. We could be talking about the potential for small power plants, each with three to six bore holes.

“It’s expensive to set up these systems but once they are operating they can be run with minimal expense.

“It basically has the same benefits as other renewable energy sources, without the worry about carbon emissions and without the visual impact of wind turbines.”

Mr Jackson said there are currently two hurdles to exploring this energy source in the UK: the lack of government cash to launch projects and developers willing to stump up the cash, though projects are underway in Cornwall and in Southampton, where the city council uses bore holes to heat its municipal buildings.

Tim Smit is planning to build a £32 million geothermal heat and power station at the Eden Project in Cornwall, which he founded.

He said: “The energy could be as much as 20 per cent of our power needs but we are ignoring it. The government needs to see the potential.”

Prince Charles has certainly seen the potential of geothermal energy, and has had bore holes drilled in an attempt to extract energy from beneath the ground at his Highgrove estate in Gloucestershire.

Have your say

"This is a real alternative to wind turbines" - At £10million per bore-hole, I don't think it is.
At best, a tiny fraction of the enrgey requirements of the UK. Why the pathological hatred of wind turbines from a vocal minority? 70% of UK residents support them.

Posted by Tim on 12 June 2012 at 15:43

This is a real alternative to wind turbines. Our beautiful countryside can be spared, revenue from tourism protected and an untapped energy source be used. Hope our local government look at this with all seriousness and allow the planning permission.

Posted by Richard Goddard on 11 June 2012 at 13:56

View all 12 comments on this article

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