Coordinating energy research for a low carbon Europe

Geothermal

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Currently, more than € 30 million per year is allocated to a total of 420-person-years to support different ongoing and foreseen geothermal research activities and ready to share research infrastructure and facilities for joint efforts and experiments within the JPGE.

Background

Geothermal energy is a non-carbon-based renewable energy source, able to provide peak and base load power for electricity and heat generation in many countries around the world. In Europe, the geothermal potential is estimated to be between 80-100 GWe, however, only in Italy, Iceland, and Portugal it is harnessed for the generation of electricity (over 1.6 GW). In several European countries like Island, France or Germany, the geothermal power is used on a small or district scale, mainly for heating supply and heat/chill storage. In addition, the geothermal energy is used for industrial heating, mainly for agricultural purposes (greenhouses) and heating homes, offices. The development scenarios foresee about 5-6 GW of installed geothermal electric capacity within 2020 and between 15 and 30 GW within 2030.

For an increase of the contribution of geothermal energy to the global power production, research needs to support some major goals:

  • exploring, accessing and developing new untapped hydrothermal resources (up to 6 km deep or offshore) at large scale in Europe
  • making Engineered Geothermal Systems (EGS) ready for large scale deployment;
  • significantly enhancing the production from already identified and utilized resources;
  • exploring, accessing and developing “high-potential” resources such as supercritical fluids, pressurized geothermal systems, and magmatic systems.

Beside the technological challenges, other aspects of relevance for the further development of geothermal energy require to be addressed with innovative approaches and tools to:

  • improve the risk assessment and management for a reliable evaluation of the technical, environmental and economic sustainability of the projects,
  • secure the social acceptance of geothermal projects by ensuring that potential site and technology specific side effects are typically relatively minor compared to the benefits,
  • provide the guidelines to the Regulatory Authorities and Policy Makers for sustainable development of geothermal initiatives.

Structure

The Joint Programmes Geothermal has organised its work within 7 subprogrammes:

  • SP1 Assessment of Geothermal Resources
  • SP2 Exploration of Geothermal Reservoirs
  • SP3 Constructing Geothermal Wells
  • SP4 Reservoir Engineering
  • SP5 Energy Conversion Systems
  • SP6 Operation of Geothermal Systems
  • SP7 Sustainability, Environment and Regulatory Framework

 

Copyright images:
Banner: Hightemperature geothermal well, Iceland; Copyright: Thomas Reinsch, GFZ
Image of the Coordinator: Ernst Huenges; Copyright: E. Gantz, GFZ