Geothermal Energy Underexploited In UK Says Report

We’ve seen lively debates recently over the merits of solar power, wind turbines and tidal power in Scilly.

But one form of renewable energy seems to have been overlooked, even though one St Mary’s building has been using it for years.

A report by the Renewable Energy Association says the UK could generate up to a fifth of its power needs through the use of geothermal energy.

It states there are ‘hotspots’ dotted around the country, particularly in Cornwall, the Lake District, East Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Cheshire. Areas with large granite deposits are known to have higher geothermal potential due to the retention of heat by the rocks.

But many people are unaware that our Islands’ Health Centre has been using geothermal energy to provide heating and hot water for years.

Dr Adrian Davis, who worked on the project team that built the centre in 1997, said they were keen to explore the use of renewable energy to reduce energy costs. He said they were lucky to have a visionary architect, Barry Briscoe from Cornwall, who suggested using a ground source heat pump to tap into the heat generated within the earth.

The system is composed of a long loop of tubing buried in the ground around the Health Centre. A fluid, similar to that in a fridge is pumped through and transfers heat from the ground to the building.

Adrian says it works “like an air conditioning unit in reverse.”

The big advantage is that there are no unsightly panels or turbines to spoil the building.

And while Adrian, who retired from the practice several years ago, says he doesn’t know the recent running costs, he says the system has been quietly ‘chugging away’ for years with minimal maintenance.

He said most people who work in the building have actually forgotten it’s there.

The Renewable Energy Association criticises the Government for failing to support the geothermal industry in the same way it has helped solar and wind generation and says we’re falling behind other countries such as Germany and Sweden.


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