A pioneering project to produce clean renewable energy from underground is being backed by the public.

The North Yorkshire scheme is exploring the potential for tapping naturally occurring heat from underground - known as geothermal energy.

More than eight out of 10 people say they are either ‘happy’ or ‘satisfied’ with the Ryedale proposal.

A similar number say they’re potentially interested in using the geothermal energy.

The proposed scheme will be the first of its kind in the UK, where wells originally drilled to extract fossil fuels will be repurposed for renewable energy.

Ryedale District Council (RDC) ran the survey during the summer, as part of an engagement programme to raise awareness of the project and seek people’s views about it.

People’s opinions were sought at Ryedale markets, Malton Show, online and face-to-face meetings. Supporting information was provided to local organisations and groups, via a travelling display and online.

Direct conversations were held with 260 different people and 109 completed the survey.

Feasibility work is continuing at Third Energy’s well sites across Ryedale to assess the natural heat that can be provided to homes and businesses, including the site near Kirby Misperton which attracted attention after the site received permission to hydraulically fracture for gas in 2016.

The energy could be used to heat commercial ventures like agricultural greenhouses, leisure facilities as well as in district heating for homes, providing emission free hot water into properties. The results are expected towards the end of this year and Third Energy then intend to prepare plans for an initial geothermal project in the first part of 2023.

Cllr Mike Potter, Member Champion for Climate Change at RDC, said: “We are very grateful to everyone who took the time to tell us what they think. It’s good to know that there is overwhelming support for a project which could turn old fossil fuel infrastructure into clean renewable energy and help reduce Ryedale’s carbon footprint.”

Eleven wells owned by Third Energy, near Pickering, Kirby Misperton and in Dalby and Wykeham Forests, are being investigated. Early indications are that at least some of them could be a source of geothermal energy. The wells are thousands of feet deep, and one is known to contain water up to 90 Celsius.

Russell Hoare, managing director of Third Energy, said the geothermal project reflects the company’s commitment to green energy.

The final results of the feasibility work are expected towards the end of this year. Third Energy then intends to prepare plans for an initial geothermal project in the first part of 2023.

Ryedale District Council’s Climate Change Action Plan can be found at www.ryedale.gov.uk/information/community/action-on-climate-change/