Renewable energy from the depths of the earth could be produced near Redruth after planning permission was granted for the UK’s first commercial deep geo­thermal power plant.

Cornwall Council has given Geothermal Engineering Ltd, which has offices in Falmouth, the green light to drill the 4.5km well at the United Downs Industrial Estate in a bid to provide renewable heat and renewable electricity.

The company was awarded £1.475m from the Department of Energy and Climate Change in December last year and must raise finance to meet the £40m development cost.

The plant is expected to be fully online by 2013 with work to drill down to access rocks at a temperature of approximately 200 degrees beginning in early 2011.

The scheme could provide enough heat per year for the equivalent of 20 schools and enough electricity for 20,000 homes.

The noise created by the drilling of the well had raised concerns in the area however, following a demonstration on the United Downs industrial estate, Geothermal Engineering Ltd exhibited noise levels of 45 decibels, 250 metres from the site.

Professor Frances Wall, head of the nearby Camborne School of Mines said: “Cornwall has a strong mining heritage due to its wealth of natural resources, and it is great to see this heritage is being continued through geothermal development. The Camborne School of Mines has been involved in deep geothermal research for decades so to see a commercial project coming to fruition is immensely satisfying. Geothermal has significant potential in the UK and the region stands to benefit significantly from this development in terms of being at the forefront of geothermal exploration.”

Ryan Law, Managing Director of Geothermal Engineering Ltd and chair of the Renewable Energy Association’s Deep Geothermal Group, says: “With the development of our plant we want to make deep geothermal energy a significant contributor to the UK’s energy portfolio. Not only can we contribute renewable, continuous power to the grid, we also want to change the way the UK meets its heat demands by offering energy-efficient, decentralised heat.

He added the scheme could also have knock on benefits by attracting businesses and companies that are able to use the renewable heat.