Cluff Geothermal Limited has entered into an exclusive agreement with Lafarge Cement UK to explore the potential of the geothermal energy source at the site of the proposed Eastgate Renewable Energy Village in County Durham. The plans will see the first commercial generation of hot water in the UK through the geothermal process.
Prof. Paul Younger (Left), Lloyd McInally (centre), and George Percy (right)
Outline planning permission to develop Lafarge’s former Weardale cement works site was granted in June 2010. The site offers a unique prospect for the UK – all five land-based forms of renewable energy – geothermal, biomass; wind; solar and hydro – on a single site Cluff Geothermal has signed an agreement with Lafarge Cement UK in the expectation that the detailed plans for geothermal development for the site will be agreed between both parties in the next six months. The companies believe that it may be possible to have operations established on the site by the end of this year or early in 2012.
As Cluff Geothermal Managing Director, George Percy explains, the generation of electricity from hot water at the Weardale site could well be a first for the UK: “Eastgate is one of the best places in Europe to tap into these resources. There are already two boreholes on site, which have proved the presence of natural heat generation in the highest category in the UK, as well as the most permeable granite ever found anywhere in the world. We will need to deepen one of these boreholes to about three kilometres, where we expect the temperature of the hot water to exceed 120˚C. This temperature is hot enough to generate electricity, and still support other heat uses afterwards, such as a hydrothermal spa. This is what the Renewable Energy Village is all about – showcasing pioneering techniques.”
Lloyd McInally, Lafarge’s project manager for the redevelopment of the Weardale Works site, believes that this is a significant moment: “The signing of this agreement is a landmark moment, marking the revitalisation of the process of creating the Renewable Energy Village. Literally, Cluff Geothermal will help provide the power that drives this project forward.
“After the former Weardale Task Force (including Lafarge) worked so hard to get planning permission for the site, it was disappointing to go on to face the obvious challenges presented by recent public sector cuts. We remain committed to achieving a beneficial, long-term use for the site – a legacy for the people of Weardale. And while it will still be challenging to turn the vision into reality in the present financial climate, we now have the basis to proceed in a pragmatic step-by-step manner.”
More good news may also be on its way. As Lloyd McInally continues: “We are always keen to hear from companies interested in locating in the Renewable Energy Village and we hope that it will not be too long before we can make a significant announcement in that respect. The inclusion of Cluff Geothermal in the project has added to the range of users that might now be attracted to the site. There will significant heat generated by the geothermal electricity generation process, energy that we do not want to see wasted. We want to find companies and operations that can make good use of this cheap, green energy. It will add another fascinating dimension to the Renewable Energy Village.”
Proposals to generate electricity on site using biomass, as envisaged in the original plans for the Renewable Energy Village, are continuing to be explored. Lafarge hopes to make an announcement on this in the near future.