Cornwall is set to become home to Europe's first geothermal lithium recovery pilot plant, with government funding announced this week set to support a project that combines lithium extraction from geothermal waters deep below the surface of the county with geothermal energy generation.
The project is a £4m collaboration between Cornish Lithium and Geothermal Engineering Ltd (GEL) at GEL's deep geothermal project site at United Downs. The pilot plant aims to demonstrate that lithium can be produced from geothermal brines with a zero carbon footprint, the firms said.
"Cornish Lithium is delighted to be involved in this project alongside GEL given the potential to establish a new industry for Cornwall," said Jeremy Wrathall, founder and CEO at Cornish Lithium.
"We believe that Cornwall has the potential to become the "battery metals hub" for the UK, thus continuing a 4000 year history of metal production and industrial innovation."
The development of the co-production plant is being supported by funding from the government's Getting Building Fund, which seeks to stimulate the UK's post-COVID-19 recovery. Around £14.3m of funding will support seven projects in Cornwall, the county's Local Enterprise Partnership announced this week, spanning renewable energy, space, aerospace, creative industries, STEM skills, and agri-food developments.
"The funding will significantly accelerate our work to demonstrate that lithium can be produced in a sustainable, zero-carbon, manner and will enable us to fast-track similar projects in other locations across Cornwall once the plant has been completed," Wrathall said.
It builds on previous funding secured by Cornish Lithium, which late last year crowdfunded £1.4m from 1,200 investors to drive forward its search for lithium that would supply UK industry with the mineral for electric vehicle and battery manufacturing.
Dr Ryan Law, Managing Director of Geothermal Engineering Ltd, said: "We have made significant strides in establishing the UK's first deep geothermal power plant in the UK. The possibility of developing future sites that include co-production of lithium extraction is very exciting and a great opportunity for both companies and Cornwall as a whole."
Other projects set to receive Getting Building funding in Cornwall include the construction of a manufacturing and specialist test facility for deep space, radio astronomy, and space telecommunication receivers at Goonhilly Earth Station, and a Cornwall-wide pilot project to retrofit social housing with renewable energy technologies such as solar panels.
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