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The untapped potential of geothermal energy – a personal view

Opportunities for geothermal energy utilisation (source: presentation by ThinkGeoEnergy)
Alexander Richter 17 Oct 2017

The untapped potential of geothermal energy - an article and interview with Alexander Richter, Principal of ThinkGeoEnergy in Icelandic paper Morgunbladid.

In conjunction with the recent CHARGE Energy Branding conference in Iceland, I was giving an interview to Icelandic newspaper Morgunbladid.

The idea was to talk about what constitutes the brand of geothermal energy and the challenges we face in promoting this incredibly useful source of energy.

As laid out in my article of last week in which I talk about “Branding Geothermal”, we as the geothermal sector face a series of challenges on promoting geothermal energy. In the context of Iceland, I mentioned the fact that the general Icelandic public does not understand the incredibly strong perception of Icelandic geothermal know-how internationally. While there are a series of international activities that are supported by the Icelandic government, e.g. the United Nations University Geothermal Training Program (UNU-GTP), funding through EEA Grants towards specific projects like the Polish GeoHeatPol project (posted on today) or a geothermal project on the Azores, there is limited support for activities of private sector players from Iceland. With more support, Icelandic expertise in utilising geothermal energy could be exported more extensively and help countries that currently not tap into their available resources.

Another challenge is that so much of geothermal promotion is done with images from Icelandic geothermal facilities, such as power plants, landscapes and the Blue Lagoon, that the geothermal brand is often synonymous with Iceland. This implies that geothermal energy is something “only” Icelanders can tap into. So while the availability of resources might differ country-by-country, many countries have at least similar if not the same potential as Iceland. While geothermal power generation requires high resource temperatures, other applications do not need these high temperatures but still provide a large number of possible opportunities.

So in the interview I highlighted the fact that geothermal energy is so much more than electricity, also highlighted in the last slide of my presentation at the CHARGE event last week.

CHARGE_GeothermalBeyondElectricity

I highlighted the opportunity and untapped potential for geothermal energy being utilised in heating and cooling applications. With many district heating systems in Eastern Europe and China still being based on fossil fuels, the issue of air quality is a predominant theme in the countries effected.

In the European Union alone, about 44% of all energy demand is for heating and cooling, showing the importance of this – often neglected – part of the energy market.With geothermal direct use, utilising heated water resources underground directly, but also geothermal heat exchange systems (groundsource heat pumps), geothermal energy could find itself in a tremendously important role in the future energy market.

And while geothermal power generation might not be possible around the world, the utilisation of geothermal energy for heating applications in home use (district heating), bathing or all kinds of industrial applications is possible nearly everywhere.

Source: Iceland Monitor/ Mbl