A UK company is to set up the first commercial-scale geothermal power plant in Britain as a trial for other plants in the nation.

Geothermal Engineering says it plans to provide 10MW of electricity to the National Grid and up to 55MW renewable heat for local use in the county of Cornwall.

If planning approval is granted, the project will kick off midway through next year and be commercially operational by 2013.

Geothermal Engineering will drill wells up to 5km deep to tap into 170 degree heat in the Earth. It will pump water down into the rock to be heated and sent to the top of the earth as water or steam.

The heated water will power turbines that will generate electricity for the grid.

Geothermal Engineering plans to eventually provide 300MW of sustainable electricity over the next 20 years across the south west where the geology is most suited to the technology of the UK, according to Geothermal Engineering managing director Ryan Law.

“Geothermal energy has been in use for millennia, even in the UK where the Romans used it for bathing,” Law said.

“Modern technology allows us to target deeper, hotter geothermal resources to provide a sustainable source of electricity and heat.”

Geothermal power is already being produced in America, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Iceland.