The Government says harnessing geothermal power in the area would not only help towards meeting the nation’s energy needs, but also create thousands of jobs in the region building and running of new power plants.
Funding totalling £6 million has now been announced to help companies carry out the exploratory work needed to find suitable sites for the technology that exploits geothermal energy.
Granite found under Devon has previously been said to have the “most promising” geological formation for ‘hot rocks’ energy production in Europe.
This is where water is pumped deep down into the rock, and comes back to the surface hot enough to generate power.
Alongside wind and wave energy, it would put Devon at the cutting edge of ‘green’ power generation.
Lord Teverson, a former Euro-MP for Plymouth who last year led a delegation of energy companies to Whitehall to discuss exploiting the renewable energy source welcomed the exploration funding.
He had previously expressed concern that geothermal power had not “featured on the radar” of the Government despite its ambitious targets for ‘green’ energy generation.
Lord Teverson, who was an MEP for Cornwall and West Plymouth between 1994 and 1999, said: “It’s a signal that the Government at last take geothermal in the South West seriously as a renewable energy source.
“The great thing about geothermal is it’s not intermittent. It’s constant energy that goes on going.”
While geothermal had been associated with Cornwall, he added: “You could certainly go as far up the peninsula as Exeter to make this technology work.”
The energy source is already exploited in other parts of the world including areas such as Italy, New Zealand, and Iceland where hot water, that is used to generate electricity, comes to the surface naturally.
The US and Australia are also switching on to the potential for deep geothermal power to provide low carbon, constant energy.
Announcing the exploration cash, Energy and Climate Change Minister Lord Hunt said:
“Deep geothermal energy is an exciting and innovative technology that could provide clean, low carbon and renewable power and heat for the UK. We want to make sure that this energy resource can play a part in the future low carbon energy mix.
“Deep geothermal power from the South West of England alone could meet two per cent of the UK’s annual electricity demand, potentially creating thousands of jobs in the building and running of new power plants.”
The region was recently named the UK’s first low carbon economy zone, putting it in the vanguard of the new green industrial revolution.
Chancellor Alistair Darling said: “Looking ahead as we do to a low carbon economy there are huge opportunities for us in every part of the country with the low carbon technologies we have got for us to get jobs in the future. This is the time now to start planning for the future.”
Projects in England, Scotland and Wales are eligible to bid to the fund. There will be £4 million available this year and £2 million in the next financial year.
The closing date for bids for the first round of the fund will be November 20 with the successful projects announced shortly afterwards.