Renewable energy… continued: geothermal energy

Geothermal energy is admittedly a renewable form of energy but given that it has been used in so many ways and for so long, it cannot be considered a new energy in industrial terms. 

However, interest in all forms of geothermal energy is reviving, as is borne out by the fact that around ten conferences and congresses are being held on the subject across Europe in the final quarter of 2011. These events are scheduled to take place in various countries: Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Switzerland!

The recent interest in geothermal energy comes mainly from the “heat pump” sector, which is experiencing considerable commercial development. We will no doubt be devoting a section of our newsletter to this new market in the not-too-distant future. 
Today, we are focusing on traditional geothermal energy.

EGEC (European Geothermal Energy Council), through EREC (European Renewable Energy Council), has already been invited to attend some of the events held by our Forum. 
Between 1998 and 2007, the Forum organised seven events involving geothermal energy, beginning with a seminar on the “European Day of Geothermal Energy” and ending with a visit to the Larderello field in Tuscany (Italy), which is operated by ENEL.

Meanwhile, as part of the Joint Research Programme, the Parliament has regularly supported the “European Deep Geothermal Project” in Soultz-sous-Forêt, about 50 kilometres to the north of Strasbourg, which has led to the construction and operation of an electricity generating plant that came on line in 2008 ( 
The company Roquette and the és group (électricité de Strasbourg, which developed its know-how at the Soultz-sous-Forêt site) began working together in 2005 and this has just resulted in the establishment of ECOGI (Exploitation de la Chaleur d’Origine Géothermale pour l’Industrie), a company that also includes the Caisse de Dépôt (Deposit Office).

ECOGI is to build a thermal generating plant, also in northern Alsace, drilling down to a depth of 2,500 metres, which will generate 24 MW of power using geothermal energy, enough to replace 16 million TOE (tonnes oil equivalent) a year from 2014 onwards. 
The “European Deep Geothermal Project” referred to above involved over twenty years of research and development, in particular to ensure that drilling and then injecting cold water does not cause seismic tremors. This has been successfully accomplished and represents worldwide progress in the field. The potential for underground energy exists; it can be exploited with the appropriate research and development work.