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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/!

LPRC @ Webinar – Recent installations, implications for the future of geothermal in Turkey

On Friday 29, Gauthier Quinonez (LPRC) attended the latest IGN online webinar on geothermal energy organized by Enerchange (PR and Event Agency focusing on renewable energy) and Think GeoEnergy (leading newspaper on geothermal). The event focused on the particular case of Turkish geothermal, its characteristics and future.

Top that occasion, the board invited Gad Shoshan (chairman at the board at the Israel-Turkey business council and chamber of commerce and managing director at Ormat Inc.) to discuss the current state of play. Ormat is a global renewable energy provider based in Reno (Nevada). The company has the particularity to be verse in multiple renewable energy sources (geothermal and recovered energy) as well as energy storage. In addition, with regards to geothermal, they managed to vertically integrate all phases of geothermal (Development, exploration, drilling, engineering, manufacturing, construction, operation and stakeholder management).

First of all, even though Turkey has become famous of over the past decade for its rapid and sustained development of geothermal, the country is still highly reliant on fossil fuels for domestic electricity production (Fig. 1). However, 3 caveats shall be made on this current status. First, all but one active Turkish power plants opened after 2006, highlighting the impressive capacity to adapt to new resources. Second, Turkish geothermal potential hasn’t been reached yet, indicating a possible growing share of geothermal electricity in the Turkish market for the future. Third, most fossil fuel consumption is linked to import from the East, highlighting a threat in local energy security and Turkish authorities made no secret about the need for a change in this matter.

Figure 1: Turkey’s electricity generation per resource

As per January 2021, geothermal energy’s output in Turkey is 1.6 GW produced by 77 power plants (with a mix of Organic Rankine Cycle[1] and flash). Although 77 power plants may seem like a high number for the country it does not meet the high demand of 84 million Turkish and does not cover the huge local geothermal potential. Figure 2 shows current knowledge of Turkish geothermal potential (red areas) and locations of operational plants (ref triangles). Based on the map, it can be concluded that Central and Eastern Anatolia are underexploited vis-à-vis their potential. In addition, there is still a lack of exploration and research to determine the true potential of the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions.

Figure 2: Turkish geothermal potential

All and all, the Turkish geothermal case study proves that the technology can be developed quickly and efficiently (76 power plants in under 15 years) despite a somewhat shaken economy (current devaluation of YLT and high unemployment). Lessons can be learned globally from the Turkish case.

[1] Organic Rankine Cycle is a technology that convert low-temperature heat sources into a mechanical energy, and it can be used to produce electrical energy in a closed system.

LPRC participates at “Geo-Energy Operations: Opportunities and Challenges” webinar

On the 16 December, The Welding Institute hosted its webinar titled “Geo-Energy Operations: Opportunities and Challenges Confirmation”. TWI is a global leader in technology engineering providing research and consultancy to its members.

The session was focused on one research question: “Why is geothermal still the hidden champion of energy?”. Geothermal has a very high potential on Earth. As a matter of fact, 99.6% of the planet is above 500 degrees Celsius, which begs the questions, why relying so much on oil and gas?

In addition, geothermal is a baseload power. Baseload power refers to the minimum amount of electric power needed to be supplied to the electrical grid at any given time. 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. Earth’s warmth is not dependent on the time of the day, season or weather, it stays warm and will continue to stay warm for billions of years.

On top of potential and availability, recent developments in technology and general economies of scale have pushed geothermal competitiveness to the forefront of the energy race. Figure 1 showcases the unsubsidized cost of alternative and conventional energy sources. Two conclusions can be drawn from this graph; first, being unsubsidized levelized costs; second, although more competitive, biomass and wind have their drawbacks.

Conventional and alternative energy costs.

The ambitious vision developed for geothermal is challenged by a slow growth and implementation of geothermal worldwide. The International Geothermal Association  highlights that geothermal Growth rate of geothermal is only 3%, which is not enough to meet UNDP (United Nation Program for Development) Objective 7 – focusing on clean and affordable energy for all. To reach this global objective, the annual growth rate of geothermal (electricity, heating and cooling) needs to be 9 to 12%. Market studies suggest that the main hurdles to overcome include initial investment and public perception. Realistically, these two notions boil down to one simple concept: trust.

Investment relates to a trust into geothermal to yield positive return on investment while maximising the cost management of operations. Academic studies suggest that trust in geothermal can be raised via sharing best practices and technical development leading to cost reduction. This combination of actions enabled a noticeable growth in solar and wind power generation over the past decade.

Finally, trust is also capital when discussing public perception of geothermal energy. Best practices across the globe demonstrate that successful geothermal projects are synonymous with open and trustworthy communication with local communities. In the words of Marit Brommer, Executive Director at IGA: “both geothermal experts and non-experts shall discuss with the public about geothermal. The public shall always be engaged openly and with non-technical jargon to ensure clear communication and more importantly: dialogue. These open discussions will not only benefit the geothermal world but society as a whole.”.

Will 2021 bring new opportunities for geothermal energy?

Shallow Geothermal Days 2020: Day 3: Minutes

On the 11th December 2020 took place the third and final day of the Shallow Geothermal Days 2020. On  opportunity the focus shifted from the perks of shallow geothermal and the European potential to the incorporation of geothermal energy in the future of European Carbon neutrality.

It is no secret that the European Union is massively investing in renewable energy sources and energy storage to decarbonize its economy. The session once again proved the necessity of geothermal energy in the upcoming carbon neutral market. Not only geothermal has a huge green and economically viable potential but it also shows potential in disruptive technologies such as combined renewables sources and thermal storage. Combined renewables sources consist of two or more renewable energy sources used together to provide increased system efficiency as well as greater balance in energy supply. For example, geothermal could provide baseload energy whilst alternating energy sources could provide additional power at pick demand time.

Main themes and subtopics of the overall CHPM concept: exploration, development, operation, market. CHPM 2030 was one of the innovative projects funded under the Horizon 2020 programme where LPRC participated.

It is now important for the European Commission and its institutions to act on climate and to act quickly. To that end, the Innovation Fund has been launched to fund a number of projects to help with changing the energy panaroma. A total of 58 out of 322 proposals submitted (18%) on the 2nd December for Large-Scale projects under the Innovation Fund were geothermal energy-related (mostly heating and cooling and thermal storage). Whilst this high number of geothermal projects does not reflect the final outcome of the bid, it however shows a growing interest in the technology on the European scene.

Will Europe be able to meet its energy-related challenges for the upcoming years?

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.

The EU green deal: a new energy and climate policy framework for a Geothermal decade?

On 10 July 2020, EGEC hosted an IGN online meeting on geothermal energy’s place in the new EU Green Deal Framework. The discussion was mainly centered around the idea that the new decade will be a Geothermal Decade. To back up this claim, Philip Dumas (EGEC’s Secretary) first exposed the growing relevance of geothermal in the current EU energy market. The push toward climate neutrality by 2050 together with an increasing number of renewable energy sources will call for smart management of the energy load and baseload energy to ensure constant levels of electricity throughout the day while fluctuating energy sources such as wind, hydro and solar can rapidly respond to a spike or a decrease in energy demand. According to experts, geothermal energy can serve as baseload energy sources as its energy output is constant throughout the day and available 24/7. In addition, geothermal energy can provide both heating and cooling which represent 64.4% of the energy consumption of an average EU household.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has showcased the urgent need for green recovery in Europe and beyond. As such, Phillipe Dumas exposed several current and forthcoming EU funding schemes that will be suited for Geothermal Energy (exploration, drilling and operation) together with EU initiatives for green development as part of both the Green Recovery and the surrounding European Green Deal.

  • Clean Energy for EU Islands: The Clean Energy for EU Islands Secretariat is an initiative on behalf of the European Commission aimed at catalysing the clean energy transition on EU Islands. European islands often face significant challenges when it comes to energy supply and energy costs. Due to geographic location, small economies of scale, and limited or absent interconnection to the mainland or to other islands, many islands are still heavily dependent upon costly imported fossil fuels to generate electricity or to meet their heating and cooling needs. Unlike other intermittent energy sources, geothermal energy could provide a stable, sustainable, and affordable energy supply for a wide variety of potential uses that are not restricted to electricity generation but encompass many types of direct uses.
  • Coal Region Transition under the framework of the Just Transition: Geothermal energy is in many ways similar to conventional extractive industries such as mining for minerals. It requires extensive understanding of geological formations to identify possible production sites. The equipment and know-how for developing a geothermal production closely resembles those for conventional drilling. Geothermal projects are not comparable to mining jobs, which are steady on the same site for decades, but a thorough industrial strategy to promote geothermal heat and power production can contribute to the solution with the development of many smaller projects over long periods in a same region, and ad-hoc industries like tourism, agro-industry, and balneology. By contributing to reducing energy poverty and improving quality of life: coal regions tend to be characterized by a high prevalence of energy poverty due to low building quality and low income for a large swath of the population. By replacing coal for home heating, and with no air-emissions, geothermal is a solution for improving air quality in cities.
  • Just Transition Fund: The European Union is committed in becoming  the first climate-neutral bloc in the world by 2050. This requires significant investment from both the EU and the national public sector, as well as the private sector. The European Green Deal’s Investment Plan – the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan – will mobilise public investment and help to unlock private funds through EU financial instruments, notably InvestEU, which would lead to at least €1 trillion of investments.
  • The Innovation Fund: an European Financing programme that stems from the EU ETS, which aims to invest part of the revenues from the European carbon trading scheme to the development of innovative clean energy technologies. The Innovation Fund does not restrict any innovative first-of-a-kind technology, provided its demonstration leads to material avoidance of GHG emissions, it has the potential for widespread application or to significantly lower the costs of transitioning towards a low-carbon economy in the covered sectors.

CROWDTHERMAL Consortium e-meeting, online

On the 2nd July 2020, the CROWDTHERMAL consortium had its second Consortium e-meeting since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. This productive meeting unfolded in two parts. First, partners addressed the problems caused by the worldwide pandemic and responding lockdown affecting the project such as postponing face-to-face meetings and delays in some Work Packages involving on-site studies. Thanks to the fruitful internal discussions among partners, the CROWDTHERMAL consortium shall not suffer any permanent drawbacks and shall pursue its goal of empowering EU citizens in the development of geothermal projects with the help of alternative financing schemes.

Second, the CROWDTHERMAL consortium reflected on the work performed during the first 10 months of the project and each partner drew a roadmap of its foreseen actions. At this occasion, La Palma Research Centre had the opportunity to unveil both the preparatory work performed under Work Package 4: integrated development schemes (starting in November 2020 and led by La Palma Research Centre) and on-going and foreseen action for Work Packages 6: Dissemination and communication.

CROWDTHERMAL project e-meeting

Balazs Bodo (Senior Advisor, LPRC) presented current objectives of Work Package 4: integrated development schemes. The aim of this block will be to connect the new approaches brought forward by CROWDTHERMAL with conventional financing, public engagement and risk mitigations 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 (EFG) and the Altfinator Network (CFH).

Regarding Dissemination and Communication, Gauthier Quinonez (Junior Project Manager, LPRC) presented the results of all CROWDTHERMAL social media activities. Over the past 10 months, CROWDTHERMAL social media saw a sharp increase in community engagement partly due to the weekly posting of educational factsheets on geothermal energy, demonstrating a growing interest of the European population in sustainable energy. On top of past activities, LPRC disclosed its views on the future CROWDTHERMAL Social Media Platform, which will enable better communication between project partners as well as a higher visibility of every work packages findings. The objective is for society to be able to follow closely the evolution of the project while taking an active part in geothermal energy development in Europe. To that end, La Palma Research Centre will be at the forefront of the development of CROWDTHERMAL’s strategy for advocating geothermal energy, crowdfunding for sustainable energy and citizen empowerment in green energy. This strategy will be unveiled to the public in September 2020.

Stay tuned!

LPRC at the “Geothermal energy in my backyard: tackling energy poverty with renewables” webinar

On June 25, took place the “Geothermal energy in my backyard: tackling energy poverty with renewables” webinar hosted by EGEC. This event tackled several issues that are particularly relevant in today’s climate.

Marion Malafosse (Policy Officer at the European Commission Directorate-General for Energy) discussed finance options laid down under the European Recovery Package, which makes available budget to advance the green and digital transition. This Package specifically reemphasizes the role of the EU Green Deal as a motor for the EU economy. In the context of carbon neutrality, heating and cooling it is expected to play a crucial role. First to decarbonise society, second to reach the industrial sector which remain to this day untouched by the green wave and third, by getting local communities involved in small scale geothermal heating projects to further increase the share of green energy in Europe.

The overarching goal of the European Commission is to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. It will soon publish its EU strategy on energy system integration. This strategy is a roadmap to assess what is necessary in the energy sector in the medium and longer term. It will not only tackle electricity and cooling, but also transport, digitalization and agriculture. The aim is to assess how these pieces will play together to reach climate neutrality. This strategy will translate into policies and calls for proposals which will greatly expand the array of opportunities in green development both for citizens and companies.

The second strategy is the Renovation Wave tackling energy efficiency for buildings. A big proportion of buildings in the EU are energy inefficient. Finding strategies to change this can lower CO2 emissions, in line with EU climate objectives. In addition to call for energy efficiency development, another likely impact of this wave is to boost local jobs and local enterprises dealing with construction.

Regarding energy poverty, the webinar showcased 3 case studies, highlighting the role geothermal energy can play for local communities. Geothermal energy is not only domestic, it is local. As such, all operations related to production, operation and consumption are made at local level, benefiting local communities by reducing costs. In addition, geothermal energy is strongly developing and new technologies open the door to hybrid technologies, complex financial solutions (prosumers) and enabling cooperation with social programmes to include all citizens.