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Geothermal ecovillage

'Hot rocks' found at cement plant
A former cement works in County Durham is to be the site of the UK's first "hot rocks" village.

The Blue Circle cement works at Eastgate, near Stanhope, closed in 2002 with the loss of 147 jobs.

A task force set up after the closure opted to search for natural hot water deep below the site.

More than three months after drilling began, experts have revealed enough geothermal energy has been found to make the project viable.

A team began drilling in September, boring 1,000 metres below the Weardale hills.

A spokesman for the Weardale Task Force said: "The results of the drilling have established that there is a viable source of hot water on the site.

"This news allows the final stages of the Eastgate site to be developed into the UK's first renewable energy model village incorporating geothermal energy."

This could make Weardale the first truly sustainable community in the British Isles
John Hamilton, chairman of Weardale Task Force

Demolition of the cement works site will begin in the New Year.

About 150 jobs will be created initially, with more being generated when the complex is completed.

More than 500,000 of public money has been spent on the test drilling project.

John Hamilton, chairman of the Weardale Task Force, said: "The success of this project is largely due to the preliminary work carried out by staff from the University of Newcastle, who identified the exact spot for the drilling.

"The hot water from the site will be used for heating and power generation.

Renewable energy

"This could make Weardale the first truly sustainable community in the British Isles.

John Holmes, One NorthEast director of regeneration and tourism, said: "The results of the test drilling are very encouraging and will help drive plans forward for the site to eventually house the UK's first renewable energy model village.

"This pioneering development has the potential to generate new jobs and prosperity for the dale and put the area at the forefront of renewable energy usage in the UK, which will play an increasingly important part in all our lives in years to come."

Draft plans for the site include housing, leisure tourism and high technology business developments.

A hotel and craft shops are also planned alongside the River Wear.

Story from BBC NEWS:

The geothermal energy bit is good. I'm a bit sceptical about the idea that you can build a sustainable community from the ground up. There's more to my understanding of sustainable than how the houses are heated. Where will the people who live there work? Will there be schools, shops, a doctors' surgery?

This is where most "sustainable" developments fall down, you're right it can never be sustainable without local jobs and services

That's my problem with Poundbury, as far as I can see it's just turned into a giant commuter/retirement estate. And I hate the poxy pastiche architecture.

I haven't seen it, any piccies?
It's quite near where my mum lives. I'm always amused by the drive-thru McDonalds which is obviously just outside the area controlled by the Duchy of Cornwall. (I don't think they show the McD's in any of the pictures).

Ta, looks very twee don't you think?

I absolutely loathe it. Wonder what our more local members think? I'm sure she'll tell us. Wink

Who's that then?

'Sin Dorset, I'd be surprised if Sarah D didn't have an opinion on it Wink

Calling Mrs L, whaddaya think of Poundbury?

Geothermal energy all'Italiano

Quote: day in the not- too-distant future, [Enel] is hoping that it might be able to start drilling in the UK...
Could we get the Italians to run our railway services while they're about it? Buonissimo!

Magma force: clean energy lights up Chiantishire

As geothermal power gathers a head of steam, Christena Appleyard visits the first plant of its breed in the Larderello region of Tuscany

Independent on Sunday, 22 June 2008

British travellers in Tuscany like to pride themselves on their appreciation of the finer things in life the local cuisine, the scenery, the architecture and art. It all elevates their holiday status to something more than just vulgar tourism.

Now they can pat themselves on the back for taking a holiday that also has cutting-edge eco credentials. Geothermal power, an ancient energy source, is enjoying its own Italian renaissance, fuelling 25 per cent of electricity use in Tuscany. That amounts to 1.5 per cent of consumption across Italy and avoids generating an estimated 3.6 million tons of C02 a year.

The energy is a product of heat from the earth's core. The naturally occurring steam is used to to turn turbines and generate power.

A very particular set of geological conditions must be present to make this process possible and Italy is blessed with these, as well as a history of pioneering engineering techniques in the geothermal sector which makes it now the fourth-biggest generator in the world.

The traditional, picturesque town of Larderello is a two-hour drive from Pisa and the site of the world's first geothermal steam power plant. It is owned and operated by Enel, Italy's largest power group and one of the biggest in the world, with operations from West and Eastern Europe to North and South America.

It was here in 1904 that the first geothermal lights were switched on five electric bulbs using a dynamo powered by naturally occurring steam. The construction of the geothermal plant began a year later, going live in 1913 with an initial 250KW capacity.

Larderello was the only such plant in the world until 1958, when a station was built in New Zealand. Now geothermal power generates electricity in more than 20 countries. Globally, Enel has pledged to invest 7.4bn (3.8bn) in renewable energy between now and 2012, with 620m allocated to geothermal.

It is a strange scene. The steel pipes that criss-cross the valley like a huge metal necklace cannot be described as beautiful. But the vast grey concrete cooling towers do look oddly graceful. From time to time the gentle breeze carries the faint bad eggs whiff of hydrogen sulphide.

The science is relatively straightforward: the steel pipes take the geothermal steam from the extraction wells to the power plants, where the steam is used to generate electricity without any alteration in its natural composition. Part of the steam is then returned underground using a reinjection process and the rest is released into the atmosphere. The reinjection maintains the balance of the geothermal ecosystem.

In many of the plants, the steam is made odourless before being released into the atmosphere, thanks to a new process for reducing hydrogen sulphide emissions that was invented by Enel engineers.

In the foyer of the company's offices in Larderello, a small red rope hangs across the staircase. Our guide, Roberto Parri, the head of operations, gives us a surprising explanation: "This is to stop the tourists coming in,"

And judging by the coaches we see later in the day, it does seem this plant has become an unlikely addition to the local vineyards and olive groves as a regular tourist stop-off. The former palazzo adjoining the offices is being renovated and turned into a museum dedicated to geothermal. It is a fascinating place to visit with its unique combination of ancient power, harnessed and tamed by the magical powers of 21st-century technology.

Past the red rope and upstairs into the boardroom, we hear the company has plans for five new geothermal plants in Tuscany. Two have already been approved and three are awaiting planning authorisation.

There is a missionary zeal about the engineers and research scientists who are working on the geothermal development. They take a clear pride in this little-known part of their country's heritage. "There are 31 power plants in Tuscany and they are all remote controlled," Mr Parri explains. "A total of 459km of pipelines carry the steam out of the earth, and up to 40 per cent of the water captured from the process of extracting the steam is reinjected into the earth to keep the pressure up.

"The geological elements that have to be in place to enable geothermal power to work are a magma chamber several kilometres below the earth's surface which must be covered by an impervious layer of rock, on top of which there must be a more porous rock that allows water to pool and evaporate. Above that there must be an impermeable layer which helps to create pressure and steam."

Until the 19th century, the geothermal areas of Tuscany were uninhabitable because of the extreme heat of the steam escaping from the ground. Only then did the people realise it could be a resource. Today more than five billion kilowatt hours of electricity are generated every year for about two and a half million households. A fair number of those are rented villas favoured by the Brits.

But the biggest significance of the work lies in the global implications for the uses of geothermal energy. Enel's current operations outside Italy extend to the US, with pipelines in California, Utah and Nevada.

In Chile it has four projects in Eltatio, Apacheta, Chillan and Calabozo, at more than 4,000 metres below the earth's surface. Enel is also operating in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala. In the US alone, the company plans to double the size of its geothermal operations by 2012.

Before we leave, one of Enel's top female research scientists shows us a colour-coded geological map: one day in the not- too-distant future, the company is hoping that it might be able to start drilling in the UK.

I loathe Poundbury too. It started off OK, when it was small with local jobs for the comparatively few inhabitants ... but it's forgotten its roots, and gone huge. One of the buildings looks like a Victorian prison!! Ugly, over-priced, over-hyped.

Other than that, it's fine Laughing

As for the geo-"city" ... how are they ever going to recoup the 500k research costs? Confused Bizarre!!
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