The UK’s first commercial deep geothermal power plant is set for development following the decision by the local authority, Cornwall county council, to grant planning permission for the project.

Developer Geothermal Engineering says it will begin drilling work in early 2011 at the site near Redruth in south-west England. The planned plant will provide both heat and power for the local area and could be operational in 2013.

“With the development of our plant we want to make deep geothermal energy a significant contributor to the UK’s energy portfolio,” said Ryan Law, managing director of Geothermal Engineering. “Not only can we contribute renewable, continuous power to the grid, we also want to change the way the UK meets its heat demands by offering energy-efficient, decentralised heat.”

He added that the project would “help to develop the UK’s geothermal expertise and skills that will allow [the country] to compete internationally as the geothermal industry grows across the world”.

Geothermal Engineering is planning to drill 4.5 km into the ground to access rocks at temperatures of around 200°C. The plant will provide up to 55 MW of heat energy and 10 MW of electricity.

The well will be the deepest onshore well in the UK.

The UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change has estimated that deep geothermal technology could supply between 1 and 5 GW of baseload, ‘renewable’ electricity by 2030.

“Nonetheless, it is only through commitment and support from government that the further private investment which is needed to fully exploit the UK’s geothermal potential will be raised,” said Law.