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The power of Cornwall: a region key to the UK’s net zero ambitions

Harnessing the power of Cornwall is essential to the UK’s journey to net zero; the region presents the UK with a concentration of investment opportunities and a unique chance to achieve its green ambitions.

Cornwall’s economy has long been driven by tourism; millions of visitors descend on the region every year to walk its rugged coastline, sample produce with the lowest food miles money can buy, and explore a landscape shaped by industry.

It’s these iconic features – the very fabric of Cornwall, that provide the perfect environment for investment in green technology and new global industries, enabling the UK to move away from fossil fuels and fulfil its green ambitions.

40% of the region’s electricity is already fulfilled by renewables, and this figure is growing(1)

Cornwall sits atop a wealth of critical mineral deposits like copper, tungsten and tin, and has one of the largest concentrations of lithium-enriched granite in Europe.

Global demand for next generation technologies and applications like electric vehicles and battery storage is creating a need for these base and high-technology metals, and Cornwall has been identified by the Department for Business and Trade as a High Potential Opportunity (HPO) for investment.

Cornwall’s rich mining history has left a legacy of extensive knowledge, maps, plans and reports vital to responsible exploration and extraction of critical minerals. Historical information can be fed into modern digital subsurface geological models to allow further exploration without the need for extensive drilling.

At a site near Redruth, once populated by a number of thriving mines, Geothermal Engineering Ltd has drilled two deep, directional wells in a bid to prove the feasibility of harnessing energy from the rich granite beneath Cornwall, to produce renewable baseload power and heat.

The production well is the deepest hole to be drilled on UK soil, and temperatures at the base reach 180°C. The company aims to provide 25 MWe of baseload electricity and 100 MWh of heat energy across its geothermal portfolio by 2028 - enough heat and power for 70,000 homes.

At the iconic Eden Project, all Biomes, greenhouses and offices will soon be fuelled entirely by a deep geothermal heating system, thanks to the drilling of a 4.5km deep well on site by Eden Geothermal Ltd.

Above ground, nearly three quarters of Cornwall’s land is agricultural, and agriculture accounts for 21% of the region’s carbon emissions(2).

West Cornwall-based company, Bennamann has developed ground-breaking technology that allows small, off-gas-grid dairy farms to turn farm waste - like cow manure and waste biomass, into better than zero-carbon biomethane.

The company’s patented slurry lagoon cover captures the biogas generated
by organic farm waste and a mobile system processes it into compressed fugitive methane and liquid fugitive methane.

The leftover digestate acts as conditioner that’s very effective in improving soil quality, and reducing the need for artificial fertiliser on the farm.

Bennamann’s technology is revolutionising agriculture in Cornwall: three of the region’s Council owned tenant farms are powering a proportion of Cornwall Council’s road maintenance vehicles thanks to a regular supply of fugitive biomethane. With more farms planned, this will ultimately result in the removal of 1000’s of tonnes of CO2e being released every year from the Council’s farm estate(3).

Meeting the land at nearly every point is Cornwall’s vast coastline which stretches more than 400 miles. To the North, it fronts the Celtic Sea.

Water depth in the Celtic Sea, excellent wind resources (the seas off Cornwall boast one of the best wind resources in the world), and deep, generational knowledge of marine industry has allowed Cornwall to lead the way with its ambition to progress Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW) as a solution to help achieve the UK’s green targets.

The Celtic Sea is set to be a world-leading region for FLOW, with a potential resource estimated at more than 100GW(4)

The region benefits from renowned research capability at the Universities of Plymouth and Exeter, and critical operations and maintenance expertise and technology will also be essential to its long-term success.

FLOW is key to decarbonising energy supply. Since the international inception of FLOW technology, Cornwall has helped forge a now vibrant market in the Celtic Sea and continues to lead in its development and delivery.

Access to clean energy such as this is critical to enabling Cornwall to service the UK with the tech metals it currently imports.

There are few regions where so many investment opportunities come together in one place, providing the solutions to unlock net zero. As a result, Cornwall is seeing growing interest from ESG orientated investment funds; its natural capital and world-leading capabilities are unique.

This article is brought to you by Cornwall Trade and Investment, Cornwall Council’s dedicated trade and investment service, part funded by the European Regional Development Fund

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