The Eden Project’s ambitious plans to generate clean energy from the ‘hot rocks’ beneath the site took a step forward recently with the announcement that it had secured the funding to begin drilling next summer.

In partnership with EGS Energy and Bestec UK, the Eden Project has set up a new company, Eden Geothermal Ltd to build a geothermal plant on the Eden Project site. Stephens Scown’s corporate team advised Eden Geothermal Limited on State Aid and governance issues.

Funding to launch the geothermal project is being provided by Cornwall Council and the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund, along with institutional investors. Drilling will start in 2020 to drill almost three miles (4.5km) in the granite crust beneath the Eden Project near St Austell.

Tim Lane from Stephens Scown’s corporate team assisted with the provision of advice on State Aid and Gavin Poole advised on governance issues.

Gavin said: “This is great news for the Eden Project, and the country. Finding clean sources of energy are crucial as we face up to the realities of climate change. At Stephens Scown we are on our own journey to become a carbon zero business, so it means a lot to be able to help this and other clients with ambitious projects like this.

“The work undertaken by the firm formed an important aspect of the risk mitigation for the project. A failure to apportion risk, responsibility, and reward for the parties at the outset can lead to uncertainty, disputes and inefficiencies as the project progresses. A recipient of unlawful state aid can be required to repay it with interest and it is  vital to ensure that the legality of any aid (in whatever form) is addressed at the outset.”

Eden Project founder Sir Tim Smit said: “Since we began, Eden has had a dream that the world should be powered by renewable energy. The sun can provide massive solar power and the wind has been harnessed by humankind for thousands of years, but because both are intermittent and battery technology cannot yet store all we need there is a gap.

“We believe the answer lies beneath our feet in the heat underground that can be accessed by drilling technology that pumps water towards the centre of the Earth and brings it back up superheated to provide us with heat and electricity.

“The missing piece of the jigsaw in a 24/7 clean renewable energy future is this baseload. Now we have the green light and the funding to start drilling we are determined to make this technology work.”

The first phase of the project will supply a heating system for the Eden Project and the second phase will mean that Eden will be carbon positive by 2023 and will also be providing heat and power for the local area.