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Plans drawn for pioneering £4m geothermal research centre

Plans have been drawn for a pioneering £4million research centre to be build in Cornwall for developing green technologies using waste heat and power from deep underground.

An outline proposal has been lodged with Cornwall Council to create the UK’s first geothermal energy plant for heat intensive distilling of alcohol.

The team behind proposal for a unique deep geothermal rum maturation and distillery project, in the Duchy, have designed a totally separate Celsius – Sustainable Distillery Research Centre, planned for the hard edge of the former United Downs landfill site, next to where Geothermal Energy Ltd will be producing zero-carbon, renewable power in 2022.

Under the new plans, waste heat would be piped from the geothermal energy plant directly into the Celsius centre – where technology developed by Cornish Geothermal Distillery Company (CGDC) and engineers from Buro Happold would boost its temperature using innovative heat pump technology.

Cornish Geothermal Distillery Company (CGDC) founder Matt Clifford

This will then operate a copper still for distilling rum and a small facility to mature rum in casks – creating the template for one of the most sustainable carbon neutral distillery projects in the UK.

The research and development project has already won £75,000, the largest single award from Round 1 of the UK Government’s Green Distilleries Competition and the team behind it say it is well-placed to gain support from Round 2, with its emphasis on quality green-job creation and revolutionising sustainability in the distillery sector and beyond.

The Celsius – Sustainable Distillery Research Centre is a completely separate scheme from CGDC’s planned £10million Rum Cask Maturation Facility designed for another Cornwall Council-owned site nearby.

The outline plans for the maturation facility await consideration by Cornwall planners, after the project received criticism from Historic England, which claimed it could damage the Cornwall and West Devon World Heritage Site.

The Celsius Centre would be a £4million development which will have no biome or visitor centre and no public access, with six full-time distillery-related and research jobs created within a simple wooden clad, sedum-roofed eco-building.

It is much smaller than the proposed rum cask maturation facility and visitor centre, which would be situated in a large biome containing four patent-pending “maturation pods” full of rum casks.

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CGDC said it is is now awaiting a date for the outline application for the larger scheme to be decided and said “it is in the hands of Cornwall Planners and we cannot make any decisions until we hear more from the council”.

CGDC said it still aims to do everything in its power to make sure the original Celsius Project – in which partners, investors and business have already ploughed hundreds of thousands of pounds – succeeds “in terms of quality-job-creation at the forefront of pioneering, green, sustainable technologies”.

But for now it is concentrating on the Celsius Centre research project and Matt Clifford, CGDC’s founder, said: “Our green technologies are key to the success of future projects not just in the distillery sector but with application for enterprises to use waste heat from other industrial processes too.

“This opportunity to harness waste geothermal heat, in particular, creates a truly sustainable source of renewable power which for us is a ‘holy grail’ of technological research.”

Nick Boid, associate at Bath-headquartered Buro Happold, said: “The technology we’re developing here has the potential to be truly revolutionary for sustainability in the distillery sector.

“Bringing forward the Celsius Sustainable Distillery Research Centre would allow us to prove the potential to utilise waste industrial heat in the heat intensive distillation processes – paving the way for the industry to make vast improvements in energy efficiency.”

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