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Network of Geothermal Power Stations ‘could Help Level Up UK’

A network of underground geothermal plants is being touted as a way to help level up the UK after a report discovered many areas with the greatest geothermal potential lie beneath the towns and cities most in need of investment.

Areas that have been earmarked by the government as part of its levelling up agenda are about three times as likely to be rich in untapped energy from the earth, according to an academic study commissioned by No 10.

The University of Durham found these include Redcar and Cleveland, Middlesbrough, East Lindsey, Hartlepool, Northumberland and Bassetlaw, which all appear in the top 10 of the index used by government to identify local authority areas in need of levelling up.

Other areas well-suited to producing geothermal heat and electricity include Newcastle upon Tyne, North East Derbyshire, the East Riding of Yorkshire and Nottingham.

Harnessing geothermal energy involves drilling a borehole to depths of about two to three miles, to flow cold water at low pressures through the hot rocks beneath the Earth’s surface. A second borehole returns the warm water to the surface where it can be used to heat homes and businesses or generate electricity.

Kieran Mullan MP, who was tasked with producing the report, said the “strong overlap” between areas in need of investment and the best geothermal locations was unexpected, but it could provide another reason for the government to look again at supporting the renewable energy technology.

“Unlike wind or solar this technology provides baseload – it is there constantly. And our expertise in drilling in the North Sea means we are well placed to motor ahead,” Mullan said.

The UK’s early steps into geothermal energy include a project in Seaham, County Durham, which will use water from mineshafts to heat 1,500 new homes and a scheme at the Eden project in Cornwall which generates heat to warm Eden’s rainforest and Mediterranean biomes as well as offices, kitchens and greenhouses

In theory, the UK has enough geothermal energy trapped underground to heat every home for a hundred years. Even by conservative estimates that account for realistic commercial and logistical limits, geothermal energy could help the UK to cut its imports of fossil fuels and rely only on the North Sea for its gas.

“But we have catching up to do because across Europe there has been much stronger government intervention to support nascent deep geothermal industries in those countries,” Mullan said.

Deep geothermal energy is abundant in Iceland owing to its unique geology but countries in western Europe are increasingly using geothermal energy to help produce green heating.

Already more than 250,000 homes in Paris rely on geothermal heating and the German government has committed to spending €1bn (£860m) before 2035 to create 100 geothermal projects.

Rishi Sunak said the report would help the government decide whether there was a bigger role for deep geothermal energy in the UK economy.

“We have made rapid progress on switching to homegrown renewable electricity and have made energy security a key priority. Success is going to depend on pulling all the levers at our disposal,” the prime minister said.

Source : TheGuardian