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‘Geothermal Challenge’ fund seeks to tap Earth’s heat energy

geothermal-ventsThe hunt is on for the next source of clean and reliable energy: heat from deep below the Earth’s surface.

In the UK, officials launched that hunt today with the announcement of a new £6 million Deep Geothermal Challenge Fund. Part of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s low-carbon investment fund, the geothermal fund is aimed at helping companies conduct exploratory work to find viable sites for this technology.

“Deep geothermal energy is an exciting and innovative technology that could provide clean, low-carbon and renewable power and heat for the UK,” said Energy and Climate Change Minister Lord Hunt. “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 2 per cent of the UK’s annual electricity demand, potentially creating thousands of jobs in the building and running of new power plants.”

Many countries worldwide — including the US and Australia — are switching on to the potential for deep geothermal power to provide low-carbon, non-intermittent energy. British officials say power from deep geothermal would strengthen and diversify the UK’s energy mix and would lessen dependence on imported fossil fuels.

There is currently just one geothermal energy station in the UK: the Southampton District Energy Scheme. The station uses hot water pumped from 1,800 metres below ground as part of the city’s district heating network and has operated successfully for over 20 years, saving an estimated 11,000 tonnes of CO2  per year.

In addition to providing heat, geothermal energy can also power steam-driven turbines to generate electricity.

Projects in England, Scotland and Wales are eligible to bid to the fund. There will be £4 million available this year and £2 million next financial year. Project bids will be assessed and managed by panel established by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.  The closing date for bids for the first round of the fund will be 20 November 2009 with the successful projects to be announced shortly after that.

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