Geothermal Energy and its possible future in Australia
The future potential for enhanced geothermal energy in Australia is enormous, despite facing financial challenges and pressures from developments in other renewables.
The potential for geothermal energy in Australia is enormous. Geothermal resources in countries like New Zealand or Iceland are more easily used for electricity generation since there is an abundance of pressurised hot water underground due to geothermal activity close to the surface. In Australia, however, most geothermal energy needs to be extracted by pumping water from the surface through rocks deep below ground to absorb heat and then circulating this water back to surface. Such a process is known as an Enhanced or Engineered, Geothermal System (EGS). Following nearly ten years of promise and investor activity, the geothermal industry in Australia peaked in 2010, and to the end of 2013 saw a cumulative investment of approximately $900 million. Since then, and despite a successful test plant in central Australia, investor and government sentiment towards the future viability of the industry as a power generation source seems to have waned significantly. Currently, the only on going project related to geothermal energy is a study of geothermal reservoir characterization led by the South Australian Centre for Geothermal Energy Research at the University of Adelaide. This project is partly funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
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