The first geothermal power plant proposed for the United Kingdom has been given the green light near Redruth in Cornwall, in the southwest corner of the country, according to a report by Industrial Info Resources.

Geothermal Engineering Limited received permission from Cornwall Council for three wells to be drilled at the United Downs Industrial Estate, near Redruth. Outline planning permission has been granted for a geothermal power plant at the site that will generate 10 megawatts (MW) of electricity and 55 MW of renewable heat energy. The company first revealed the plans last October, but had hoped that construction would already be under way.

Work on the plant will begin in early 2011 and involves drilling 4.5 kilometres into the ground to access rocks at temperatures of approximately 200 C. According to Geothermal Engineering, this will be the deepest onshore well in the U.K. The plant”s 55 MW of heat will be capable of heating 20 schools for a year, while the 10 MW of electricity is enough to power 20,000 homes. The plant is expected to be operational in 2013.

The U.K. lags far behind other European countries in the geothermal energy sector, according to Industrial Info. Germany has a number of small and large geothermal plants in operation and an estimated 150 geothermal power projects in various stages of development. The country wants to generate 280 MW from geothermal energy by 2020. Iceland”s volcanic geography is ideally suited to geothermal energy, and Industrial Info reports five major geothermal plants supply about 25 percent of the country”s electricity needs and 90 percent of its heat.

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