Posts

LPRC projects at EGU 2021

This year, following the company’s tradition to present its projects at the EGU General Assembly – 2017, 2019 and 2020 -, LPRC will present and discuss five projects on this year’s edition. Due to the travel and health restrictions in place the event will be held online.

The EGU 2021 event (#vEGU21) will host presentations in a unique style: each abstract will be given a 2-minute timeslot  to make a quick presentation based on a 1-slide presentation. After that, participants can enter chat rooms to discuss the abstract and the presentations with the authors.

Below you can find the projects and materials that LPRC will present during the EGU 2021 online event:

Feel free to have a look at the projects and materials provided and join the discussion at the given times – science is for everyone!

Environmental evaluation of a Geothermal Power Plant in the Southern German Molasse Basin by a Life Cycle Analysis

On the 26th March 2021, ENERCHANGE and ThinkGeoEnergy hosted a new episode of their recurring Focus on Geothermal – Energy for the Weekend event this time focused on Life Cycle Assessment of Geothermal Energy to raise public acceptance based on a German Case Study.

Geothermal Energy and social acceptance

The webinar highlighted the competitive disadvantage of geothermal energy compared to other energy sources due to public opinion. Despite of its green potential and output advantages (baseload capacity, long lifetime of operation and wide accessibility), geothermal is often perceived a harmful energy source by general public.

According to the present case study and similar past conclusion of experts, the roots of poor social acceptance performances of geothermal energy lie in poor communication of geothermal green capacities compared to other energy sources both fossil and green. The German team hosting the event suggested that a clear demonstration of the green output of geothermal energy could outweigh negative initial views on the technology. In addition, the team believes that a strict environmental monitoring of geothermal power plants is necessary to showcase transparency, accountability and good faith of geothermal developers. To that end, the team proposed that geothermal projects shall establish a thorough Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of their operations from exploration to decommission to monitor CO2 emissions and take measures if levels are abnormally high.

Life Cycle Assessment for geothermal projects

A Life cycle assessment is a technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life, spanning from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, and use.

Possible considerations of a Life Cycle Assessment for Geothermal plants.

Based on this new operational framework for a Life Cycle Assessment in geothermal, 3 steps have to be taken into account when assessing geothermal power plants:

  • Drilling geothermal wells require energy (often electricity) whose origin (fossil v. renewable) has to be taken into account. Furthermore, building a plant requires, raw materials, transport and auxiliary energy. All of which have a carbon footprint. The total energy demand for input will be accounted for in the calculation of the environmental impact of a project.
  • The same principle applies for the output of a station. Whilst the electricity produced by a geothermal power plant might be 100% clean, it bears the limitations of transport of raw materials for construction and the building of the plant itself.
  • Finally, it is necessary to ensure that refrigerant used in geothermal turbines shall not leak which would have a detrimental impact on the environment. One way to ensure transparency and maintenance of high safety standards throughout the lifetime of a geothermal plant is to enforce environmental monitoring. Said monitoring shall be available to the public to showcase the good performance of geothermal energy which would then improve social acceptance of the technology once the public sees for itself that geothermal has great versatility coupled with high environmental standards.

LPRC participates at the GEOENVI-CROWDTHERMAL joint webinar – part 2

The recommendations coming from GEOENVI (see part 1) directly echoe the CROWDTHERMAL project’s vision for social acceptance on geothermal projects. CROWDTHERMAL identified 4 factors of public acceptance:

  1. Self-efficacy: Energy transition means the change of infrastructures and daily life environments. It is important to experience one’s own impact and influence within this transformation process.
  2. Identity: The more people can identify emotionnally with a measure, the greater their willingness to accept it. This means that infrastructure measures must also be recognised emotionally as elements of one’s own living environment. This is more likely to happen with more local stakeholders involed (regulators, SME and local communities).
  3. Orientation and insight: If people understand the necessity of a political decision and support the goals and means envisaged by this decision, they are more likely to accept it. Therefore, transparent information is needed about what they will face. Crucial elements are transparency about pros and cons and potential alternatives.
  4. Positive risk-benefit balance: Acceptance is more likely the more the planned consequences of a decision benefits oneself or related groups. This includes the perception of low or at least acceptables risks. In this context, the risk assessments of experts and those of laypersons are often not congruents.

Finally, with regard to financing of geothermal projects, CROWDTHERMAL confirmed that community funding can play an important role to initiate and support geothermal projects by raising additional funds. Especially in the early project development phases, alternative finance methods can enable more geothermal projects to be brought to life. Community funding can also achieve public engagement and increase acceptance. In the light of the massive investments needed, especially for deep geothermal power projects, community funding is yet not considered to be functional entirely on its own, but rather in combination with other (conventional) forms of finance.

Community funding can play an important role to initiate and support geothermal projects.

The most suitable alternative finance method very much depends on the individual project characteristics and context. At the early project development stages, especially crowdfunding (shares/equity or reward-based) can be attractive options to achieve community co-ownership and to enhance project support. The high resource-related risk in the early phases leads to high return expectation of investors. Community funding is generally less risky in the construction and operation phases, but the potential returns at these stages are also less attractive.

Understanding and developing a project in a holistic way, taking into consideration technical, financial, and social dimensions as well as their interdependency is an important risk mitigation measure for project developers. It reduces the risk of interface problems and increases the chances for a Social License to Operate as well as for technical and economic success.

Further readings:

GEOENVI Recommendations for the harmonisation of geothermal environmental regulations in the EU: https://www.geoenvi.eu/publications/recommendations-for-european-harmonisation-of-geothermal-environmental-regulations-in-the-eu/

CROWDTHERMAL guidelines for Public acceptance: https://www.crowdthermalproject.eu/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/CROWDTHERMAL-D1.4.pdf

CROWTHERMAL community for renewable energy best practices in Europe: https://www.crowdthermalproject.eu/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/CROWDTHERMAL-D2.1-new-version.pdf

LPRC participates at the GEOENVI-CROWDTHERMAL joint webinar – part 1

On Tuesday 16 March, GEOENVI and the CROWDTHERMAL project, where LPRC leads one work package, hosted a joint online event titled: “Targeting acceptability and co-ownership for deep geothermal projects”. In this event, an expert panel discussed recommendations and ways forward for public engagement for deep geothermal, based on good practices on crowdfunding from the CROWDTHERMAL project and gave some academic perspectives on the subject.

Mission statement of both projects:

The objective of the GEOENVI project is to answer environmental concerns in terms of both impacts and risks, by first setting an adapted methodology for assessing environment impacts to the project developers, and by assessing the environmental impacts and risks of geothermal projects operational or in development in Europe.

The webinar (part 1):

Both EU projects tackle the question of public engagement with different hypothesis, so this webinar was an opportunity to gain a better overall understanding of public engagement based on two different scopes and methodologies.

The first part of the webinar was focused on the research output of the GEOENVI project. GEOENVI argues that further development of geothermal projects will boil down to creating an energy community and better communication on the side of developers. The combination of these two aspects is believed to have the potential to raise social acceptance of geothermal projects.

Building an energy community is the action of involving local stakeholders (regulators, local industries, SMEs and individual citizens) in the production of sustainable heat and/or electricity. The aim is to ensure that energy production can provide opportunities to local businesses (see similar conclusion from the Trends in geothermal webinar) as well as energy for local households. The figure below showcases some of the inititation that may be undertaken by project developpers and regulatory authorities to insert energy project in a community to the benefits of a variety of economic activities.

1Initiatives to promote the sustainable development of geothermal areas.

With regards to dissemination and communcation of project activities, GEOENVI discovered that there is a gap between how project developpers think they communicate and how the public feels it is informed. On the following figure,  it is appararent that the public generally feels poorly informed. This misunderstanding in communication draws a wedge between a project and its surrounding community. In Alsace, this wedge resulted in tension between local communities and geothermal development in spite of the geothermal potential of the area and the positive economical impact of competititive green energy on its surrounding market. The problematic is particularly interresting when we consider that misinformation leading to mlistrust of a technology is also visible in other sector (wind turbines, electric cars and more recently vaccines).

Participation in public inquiries held in Alsace 2015/2016.

Based on these two problematics, GEOENVI will provide policy recommendation for the European Union in hope that it could turn the tie of geothermal development in the continent, thus meeting climate goals whilst ensuring social gains at local level.

GEOENVI calls for European standards on information sharing by setting up minimum qualitative requirements for information sharing on energy projects. This will not only ensure better trust into new green technologies but also enables project developpers to draw conclusions from other projects that have similar minimal communication requirements:

  • Choose and collect the relevant information enabling project developpers and researchers alike to confidentially collect environmental concerns and posititve impact to compare any project with other Renewable Energy Sources (RES);
  • Adapt the communication target: distinguish ‘public’ from ‘experts’ in the communication strategy so that anyone can understand the purpose and methodlogy of an energy project in his/her/their own words;
  • Improve data accessibility and awareness of accessible information: FAIR data principle , independent appeal commintee for confidentiality issues;
  • Share reliable information: All project developpers shall ensure a pro-active data sharing strategy to inform the public in the name, of transparency and trust building.

This article continues on part 2.

Trends in geothermal, 16th February 2021 part 2: technology

The first part of the Baseload Trend’s geothermal webinar focused on hurdles linked to financing in new technologies and emerging trends. With regards to geothermal, the trends for the future unfold in three aspects: shallow geothermal, deep geothermal and thermal storage.

Shallow geothermal has received more and more attention recently due to the decentralisation of the energy market. Local energy demand and concepts such as energy communities are trending due to the unlikeliness of large scale and centralized power plants to meet heat and electricity requirements of all communities throughout a region, especially those most remote. In the past, geothermal would not have been able to meet these spikes in demand. Fortunately, advances in technologies, heat exchangers and miniaturization enable smaller plants and heat pumps to provide affordable and competitive energy to smaller markets. In addition, micro-grids for small markets are easier and quicker to develop than extensive grid system joining large power plants to remote and smaller energy demand. This local approach will ensure that small communities are not behind the renewable energy curve – especially important to make sure that countries will meet climate target, by ensuring a comprehensive renewable energy grid whilst promoting a fair transition where each individual has access to local affordable clean energy without bearing the costs of long and complex grid to dispatch energy home. Finally, local energy disables the need to depend on foreign oil, gas and electricity thus improving national energy security and making prices less volatile.

Main themes and subtopics of the overall CHPM concept: exploration, development, operation, market. CHPM2030 developed a concept for a new geothermal-related technology.

Shallow geothermal is only one face of the “geothermal trend coin”. Deep geothermal has a complementary role to shallow in any national grid. Whilst, shallow geothermal often implies smaller power plants (or heat pumps) for less energy demanding markets, deep geothermal often implies higher temperatures and thus higher power outputs for more energy demanding markets. Two main trends are foreseen for deep geothermal in a near future: first, scalability of operations thanks to lessons learned from the oil and gas industry (it would be possible to take lessons learned from these technologies to apply them to new geothermal fields); second, economies of scale could greatly benefit from geothermal deep drilling in the future since more drilling would reduce the marginal cost of each plant by incorporating the lessons learned from past experiences. Finally, experts believe that the future of deep geothermal plants is ultradeep rigs (around 10km deep). Such high depth is on the horizon thanks to drilling techniques developed by the oil industry. Almost any point of the globe reaches very high temperatures (around 200°C) at such depths meaning that any place could, theoretically, be producing large quantities of clean energy for decades.

Energy production is not the only benefit of geothermal. This renewable source has the added value to be able to be suited for thermal energy storage. Thermal energy storage (TES) is a technology that stocks thermal energy by heating or cooling a storage medium so that the stored energy can be used at a later time for heating and cooling applications and power generation. Wind and solar may be better at delivering the cheapest net kW/h, but storage is cheaper for geothermal. This is important because different perks of different energy sources emulate the best in each or in a comprehensive energy mix. Geothermal energy and thermal storage will be able to form the baseload power of an energy mix whilst fluctuating power sources such as wind and solar will supply peaks in demand. In the end, there is no silver bullet to fight climate change but, rather, a comprehensive system of clean technologies enabling a secure and fair carbon transition.

For more information on groundbreaking geothermal technologies that LPRC was a part of, consider checking out the CHPM2030 project that combine heat and power production to mining: https://www.chpm2030.eu/!

Trends in geothermal, 16th February 2021 part 1: investment

On the 16 February 2021, Baseload Capital (an investing firm) hosted its webinar on upcoming trends in the geothermal sector. Its philosophy is to act as a catalyst for green baseload electricity by funding renewable energy projects throughout the world. Currently, the company has subsidiaries in Iceland, Japan and Taiwan, which work with local communities and power companies to permit, build and commission heat power plants.

The first half of this two-part article will focus on investment in geothermal and what the future is holding for finance in energy. Geothermal represents an interesting case study for financing carbon neutrality. However, with only 2% of the global energy market, geothermal is lacking behind other energies despite its upsides: available 24/7, 365 days a year independently of weather, outside temperature or time of the day. In addition, it can serve as a baseload power (minimum amount of electric power needed to be supplied to the electrical grid at any given time) for any renewable energy mix. Day to day trends of power usage need to be met by power plants, however it is not optimal for power plants to produce the maximum needed power at all times. Geothermal power plants have average availabilities of 90% or higher, compared to about 75% for coal plants. Geothermal power is homegrown, reducing our dependence on foreign oil. So, if geothermal is so convenient why is it lagging behind other energy sources?

Geothermal suffers from several misconceptions that are often afflicting new investment opportunities. First, the Kodak core business model is a good example of neglecting new emerging trends for already established goods and services. We all know what happened to Kodak and printed photos. But the question is: would we really have acted differently if we had been in their shoes? Many examples since then seem to indicate that we tend to misjudge the potential of emerging technologies.

Second, connecting dots. Some technologies are on the shelf because their fullest potential can only be met by combining them with other technologies. When identifying 2 or more trends with inherent potential, they can create a whole new concept sparking new business opportunities in a market. Going back to geothermal, this concept is incredibly relevant. On one hand, it is a fact that energy demand is rising. On the other, the energy industry realizes that power production (heat and electricity) is too centralised and thus could face problems to reach the widespread growing demand. In parallel, it has been apparent that geothermal energy opened new opportunities for building medium and low-grade power plants for heat able to meet local demand that previously did not make sense financially. An example of this is Iceland: local communities have a growing demand for clean energy yet most of electricity production is generated around the capital Reykjavik. These conditions are perfect for local distributed geothermal power to supply local communities with affordable, clean energy based on low temperature heat.

Third, discovering new trends. Trends create momentum in a market when many people are affected by it. A large, invested community increases the likelihood of a successful emerging trend. In essence, it boils that to marketing: capturing the imagination of a targeted community with business opportunities or services that can benefit them or society as a whole. For instance, geothermal tends to be the fields of experts, scientists and selected groups of individuals. Whilst, this group produces a lot of positive ideas, disruptive technologies and discussions, outcomes tend to circulate into the same circle, depriving the overall field of a greater reach. Hence, these trends are de facto on a shelf waiting to be discovered by the wide public. Incidentally, being on the shelf does not allow one trend to find an application that would have a positive snowball effect on society.

Therefore, nowadays it is likely that new trends and investments in geothermal will focus on meeting the energy demands of local communities whilst being integrated to the economical ecosystem. A geothermal power plant could provide district heating for neighbouring homes, heat for local organic greenhouses, hot water for the local swimming pool or spa and countless other solutions benefiting communities. This comprehensive approach does not only benefit investors but has lasting positive impacts on future generations. Said impact could also be the added value needed to increase the social acceptance of geothermal. By integrating communities, businesses and private citizens in their local energy ecosystem a lasting relationship between energy producers and customers can be achieved.

For more information on citizens’ empowerment in geothermal check out the CROWDTHERMAL website: https://www.crowdthermalproject.eu/!

Recap of the “Focus on Geothermal – Energy for the Weekend” Webinar

How can deep geothermal be green whilst releasing CO2 emissions into the atmosphere?

The figure below seems to indicate that deep geothermal energy is not as green as it could be assumed, in some instances reaching levels of emissions comparable to fossil fuels energy sources (gas, coal and oil). However, this graph is a simplification of what is really at stakes. First of all, geothermal emissions here are presented as life-long emission meaning resulting from exploration, drilling, building the plant, manufacturing of all the parts, operation and decommission. All but stages but operation are CO2 emissions that currently cannot be avoided because of the reliance on fossil-fuel for manufacturing any part and the value chain in general.

With regards to CO2 emissions during geothermal operation one might wonder why an energy source that does not burn fossil fuel nor carbon content still produces GHG emissions. And this is due to the CO2 content into the water reservoir from which heat is extracted. Think about a bottle of sparkling water when the lid is on, there is no bubble rising to the surface of the water and therefore no gas can expand, in short: CO2 is dissolute in the water, the system is sealed. Once you open the bottle, you witness this characteristic “pop” (due to expanding gases) followed by a rush of CO2 bubbles to the surface that then make their way to the atmosphere: the system is open.

Deep geothermal reservoirs, which are polluting, function in the very same manner as a bottle of sparkling water (albeit at much higher pressure). Drilling to a geothermal reservoir in order to harvest its heat means opening a closed system. The presence of CO2 in deep geothermal reservoirs is a naturally occurring phenomenon linked to Earth magmatic events and decay of any living organism.

Luckily, geothermal CO2 emissions during operation can be mitigated, as Hörmann Grupp presented, there are ways to make a geothermal operation 100% green. Their experiments were based on a pre-existing body of literature on carbon capture. During their tests, they further confirmed that it is possible to capture CO2 released from the brine and reinject it in the geothermal reservoir so that it never pollutes the atmosphere. Furthermore, thanks to the high pressure put on the CO2, it dissolves into the water thus not perturbing the heat exchange critical for any geothermal plant.

Experiments and new technologies are improving geothermal each day making the energy greener and more reliable than ever. It is really a breakthrough that will untroubledly help trigger a massive growth of geothermal in the energy market worldwide.

LPRC during 2020 – a summary

The past year was an atypical one, there is no denying it. Despite the many problems posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, LPRC still managed to keep up with its work plans. All team activities – where the EU-funded projects are of most importance – ran successfully. Although not without a certain degree of adaptation. A quick summary of our activities on each of our EU projects during 2020 is given below:

INTERMIN: LPRC participated in the project’s main discussions and contributed with dissemination activities. The team’s biggest workshare was done in 2019 regarding WP2 – Raw Materials Sector Skills, Gaps and Needs.

MACARONIGHT: In 2020, LPRC coordinated the second installment of  the MACARONIGHT project after its success in 2o19. Coordination included preparation and monitoring of activities in different islands as well as analysis of the outcomes.

PRO-ACT: For this space project, LPRC contributed with geological information for the preparation of the lunar analogues where the robotic elements shall be tested during 2021. LPRC also presented the project during the EGU 2020 event.

ROBOMINERS: LPRC leads WP8 – Active clustering and roadmapping – and during 2020 the team contributed to the exchange of information with several projects and initiatives, kickstarted Focus Groups discussions and launched the Horizon Scanning activities. LPRC also contributed with the dissemination of the project at several opportunities.

AGEO: Within AGEO, the team leads communication and dissemination efforts. In 2020, besides the outreach efforts, LPRC also contributed to strengthening the impact of the project by leveraging communication with other EU projects and initiatives.

CROWDTHERMAL: During 2020, LPRC’s role was two-fold. First, the team largely contributed to the communication efforts with the management of social media channels and preparation of material such as factsheets. Second, LPRC kickstarted activities for WP4 – Integrated Development Schemes, which it leads.

ENGIE: LPRC started discussions and prepared ENGIE-related activities for the Researchers Night in 2020. For this task, LPRC hosted a high number of (online) workshops. The team also contributed with dissemination of the project, as seen with its participation on the EGU 2020 event.

UNEXUP: Continuing LPRC’s tasks from UNEXMIN, in UNEXUP the team also leads dissemination efforts. Therefore, LPRC was responsible for the development of all outreach material – both online and physical. Another important task, was the team’s contribution to the market analysis and go-to-market strategy set for the project’s implementation.

MOBI-US: Within this education-based project LPRC had two main tasks. It led outreach efforts during the whole year with the development and implementation of dissemination actions. The other relevant task was the contribution to the major guidelines for the implementation of the MOBI-US network. Here, LPRC contributed with an extensive analysis on the current and future gaps of the raw materials sector.

Besides contributing to EU-projects LPRC was also active in other areas including policy analysis, science communication and use of foresight methodologies.

We hope to have an even better 2021 with more projects and more work!

Shallow Geothermal Days 2020: Day 1: Minutes

On Friday, 4th December 2020, the European Geothermal Energy Council (EGEC) held the first day of the Shallow Geothermal Energy Days 2020. LPRC participatedin the event in light of the CROWDTHERMAL project.

The event focused solely on geothermal at shallow depth, specifically heat pumps. A geothermal heat pump (GHP) or ground source heat pump (GSHP) is a central heating and/or cooling system that transfers heat to or from the ground. The whole event highlighted the role of shallow geothermal energy within the scope of the climate transition and the EU Carbon neutrality. EGEC acknowledged that geothermal energy is not the silver bullet of the climate transition, but it has an important role to play in the next 4 decades given its inherent capabilities and the EU’s potential for low enthalpy geothermal.

Geothermal has a bright future in Europe for 2 main reasons. First, the technology is green and highly competitive when it comes to space (see the figure). Second, geothermal can follow the fluctuating demand of energy within its grid thus disabling reliance on supplemental electricity further increasing the energy efficiency of buildings whilst decreasing their operating costs. This has the spillover effect to fight energy poverty. Energy poverty is a particularly urgent matter at a time where most people have to remain at home for longer hours per day due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. It is important because a Just Energy Transition is an inclusive one.

CROWDTHERMAL meeting, 15-17 September, online

From the 15th to the 17th September 2020, the CROWDTHERMAL consortium held three successive meetings to prepare the start of the second year of the project. These meetings were successively a General Assembly (15th September), the Advisory Board meeting (16th September) and finally the 3rd Consortium meeting (17th September). The CROWDTHERMAL project aims to empower the European public to directly participate in the development of geothermal projects with the help of alternative financing schemes (crowdfunding) and social engagement tools.

During the General Assembly, the CROWDTHERMAL consortium discussed the progress made during the first year of the project and each partner presented the summary of the work performed in its respective tasks. In the first year of the project, La Palma Research Centre had a dual role in the project. First and foremost, it was part of the Communication and Dissemination Work Package together with the European Federation of Geologists. LPRC led the communication strategy on social media including two successful campaigns: the first showcasing the presentation video of the project on YouTube, while the second highlighted the best practises regarding alternative funding schemes for energy projects across Europe. Second, LPRC led the preparations for CROWDTHERMAL Work Package 4 “Integrated Deployment schemes“ starting November 2020. This Work Package aims at creating a social-media powered platform that will support the deployment of integrated development schemes for geothermal energy utilising alternative finance and community engagement tools. With regards to this Work Package, LPRC started the work on the CROWDTHERMAL sustainability plans that are aimed to facilitate the efficient market uptake of results and the sustainability of the project after the EC-funded period.

For the Advisory Board meeting, a group of experts discussed the findings and issues encountered around the project. The main topic of discussion was centred around the social acceptance of geothermal energy. Based on empirical data provided by the project on geothermal energy around Europe (WP 1, Addressing the bottlenecks of public engagement for community-based geothermal development) and regarding the place of participative finance to geothermal projects (WP 2, Community-based geothermal energy financing principles and WP3, Auxiliary and alternative pathways to risk mitigation), it became apparent that CROWDTHERMAL has indeed the unique opportunity to raise awareness about the potential of geothermal energy for climate change mitigation and to enhance citizen empowerment in energy at the same time. To that end, the project will focus more on educating the public on the advantages of geothermal energy and on the opportunity given to any investor by diverse participative financing schemes.

During the 3rd Consortium meeting, all the partners deliberated on the upcoming actions to be taken in the second year of the project. For this year, LPRC will continue to lead dissemination on social media and increase the volume of campaigns and will also lead the development of the project deployment schemes. The aim is to connect the new approaches brought forward by CROWDTHERMAL with conventional financing, public engagement and risk mitigation schemes and launch a new European mobilisation campaign with the help of social media as well as with the help of targeted conferences, workshops and by mobilising EFG Third Parties and the Altfinator Network (CFH).

Learn more about CROWDTHERMAL on the project´s website (https://www.crowdthermalproject.eu/) and follow the project´s daily activities on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram) @CROWDTHERMAL_EU.