As well as being a popular destination for tourists — the county’s beaches are thronged with holidaymakers during the summer — Cornwall is also becoming something of a hub for companies working on projects focused on renewables and innovation.
This week, a number of these developments took significant steps forward. On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson installed the first solar panels at a facility described as the United Kingdom’s “first utility-scale energy park.”
According to energy firm ScottishPower, which is a subsidiary of Spain’s Iberdrola, 10,000 panels will be installed at the site. The 10 megawatt solar farm will supplement a 20 MW wind farm that’s already in operation and a 1 MW battery storage system.
ScottishPower said the energy park at Carland Cross — which is a short drive from Carbis Bay, a small coastal resort set to be the epicenter of the G-7 talks — would be able to generate enough energy “to power the equivalent of 15,000 homes.”
While Johnson is keen to be seen as someone who embraces renewables and prioritizes sustainability, the fact he flew to Cornwall rather than take an alternative form of transport drew stinging criticism from some quarters.
In a response to his detractors that was widely reported by the U.K. media, Johnson is quoted as saying: “If you attack my arrival by plane, I respectfully point out the U.K. is actually in the lead in developing sustainable aviation fuel, and one of the points in the 10 point plan of our green industrial revolution is to get to ‘jet zero’ as well.”
As well as wind and solar projects, Cornwall is also home to a fledgling geothermal energy sector. A company called Geothermal Engineering Limited is working on a number of projects, including a geothermal swimming pool in the town of Penzance.
The business is also developing the United Downs Deep Geothermal Power Project near the town of Redruth.
Focused on the creation of a geothermal power plant, the United Downs project has been years in the making and is centered around two wells which are 5,275 and 2,393 meters (17,306 and 7,851 feet respectively) deep.
On Monday, a firm called Cornish Lithium announced it had successfully built a geothermal water test site at United Downs. The company’s aim is to trial direct lithium extraction technologies on shallow and deep geothermal waters.
In a statement issued alongside the announcement Cornish Lithium’s CEO, Jeremy Wrathall, said his company’s test site at United Downs provided it with “an opportunity to demonstrate what modern, low-carbon mineral extraction looks like.” The results, he added, would “inform the development” of a larger pilot plant.
As sales of electric cars increase and the planet’s hunger for tech grows, materials such as lithium will be important in the years ahead, a point Cornish Lithium makes on its website.
“As vital components of batteries used for electric vehicles and energy storage,” it says, “the potential opportunity to extract metals such as lithium, tin and cobalt in Cornwall could represent a significant strategic advantage for the United Kingdom.”
While Cornwall is home to a number of land-based energy projects, nearby waters also offer scope for development.
In April, for instance, it was announced that a research project focused on the potential of tidal, wave and floating wind technology had secured support from Marine-i, a program centered around innovation in areas such as marine energy.
The project will be based on the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago located off the Cornish coast, and led by Isles of Scilly Community Venture, Planet A Energy and Waves4Power.
According to Marine-i, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the overarching aim of the Isles of Scilly project is to “build a new databank of wave and tidal resource data.”
This data will include information on a range of metrics including wave height, wind speed and tidal stream velocities.
Read More: Cornwall, home of the G-7 summit, embraces push to renewable energy