Penzance pool engineering project takes a step closer to geothermal future

The first stage of drilling work has begun at one of the UK’s most eye-catching civil engineering projects as the Jubilee Pool in Penzance looks to become the first facility of its kind in the country to be heated using geothermal energy.

Work has started on drilling a 1.4km deep geothermal well which will enable visitors to enjoy bathing in waters of around 35°C in a section of the pool. The new heated section, which will open to the public in the summer of 2019. 

The project is being undertaken by Geothermal Engineering Ltd (GEL) after securing funding from the European Regional Development Fund. GEL has secured a licence from Geon Energy, a joint venture company set up by Arup and GEL for some of the technology used in the project.  

Martin Nixon, from Friends of Jubilee Pool said “Since my brother Charles first suggested this fantastic idea over seven years ago, it’s been very exciting to see it gain traction and now, at last, become closer to reality. I believe this will be brilliant in raising the profile of the town.”

The Jubilee Pool is the largest seawater swimming pool in the UK and one of the last of its kind in Europe. Since reopening in 2016, the pool has attracted over 100,000 visitors, boosting the local tourism industry and economy.

Geon Energy has developed the technology which enables the delivery of an efficient, renewable and sustainable heating supply.  The innovative process involves drilling a geothermal well to a depth of 1.4km and drawing up water that has been heated by the surrounding ground using a small pump. The heat is then transferred to water in adjacent pipes which flow into the pool. 

Dr Matthew Free, Arup director, said: “We have been looking at many possibilities for generating geothermal heat and are pleased that the first operational project will be in Cornwall where we carried out a highly successful trial project two years ago.  Not only will the well deliver heat cost effectively and with practically zero carbon emissions, it should prove an attractive idea for the local community and for visitors – why go to Iceland, Japan or New Zealand to experience water warmed from deep underground?  The resulting economic benefits to Penzance should be significant.”

The transformational project has caught the eye of many and even fought off competition from 11 other projects across the country at the end of 2017 to be voted the UK public’s favourite civil engineering project in the Institution of Civil Engineers’ (ICE) annual People’s Choice Award.

Originally built in 1935, the pool has been extensively repaired and updated following a two-year £3m restoration.

Ryan Law, managing director of GEL, said: “The use of geothermal energy significantly reduces emissions of greenhouse gases associated with the supply of heat and we hope that the learning and expertise gained from this ground-breaking project will be exported elsewhere, giving Cornwall the chance to be a leader in geothermal technology and installation.”

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