Big opportunities for direct use of geothermal resources in El Salvador

Drying coffee at Perquin, Morazan, El Salvador (source: flickr/ Maren Barbee, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 21 Sep 2018

The regional office of German Development Agency (GIZ) sees a great opportunities for geothermal direct use in El Salvador. With less risk and costs than traditional geothermal power generation projects, direct use of geothermal resources could have great economic potential.

The German Development Agency (GIZ) has been very active in promoting the use of geothermal energy in the region of Central America, in particular for direct use.

El Salvador can take more advantage of its geothermal resources. It does not need to be converted into electrical energy, but it can be used directly in several industrial applications. This is one of the key focus areas for the programs of the German Development Agency in Central America.

“You take the steam from the earth and use it directly as heat, you do not transform it into electrical energy, but you take the heat, what is done with the heat? You can easily dehydrate fruit and you no longer export the bananas, but export bananas chips, which are very popular, “said Tanja Faller, regional director of GIZ’s geothermal promotion program in Central America.

In El Salvador one only would have to drill a few hundred meters, while in Germany it would require wells of up to 2,000 meters, “to have the same temperature, and with that you can work in a sustainable way, encouraging the industry,” she said.

The availability of the resource means that, after having drilled, it is much less expensive. In Central America there are still only few examples of direct use of geothermal energy.

In El Salvador, one of the most promising projects is a coffee dryer developed by LaGeo. Also, they are exploring how to use that heat for the pasteurization of milk and thus implement it in the dairy industry, these are two initiatives that GIZ is supporting.

In Guatemala there are projects for dehydrating fruit and seeds.

Faller explained that in Guatemala the initiatives arose from the “economic necessity”, because the price of energy increased. “There is nothing free in life and to do business you have to invest, it is a high initial investment, but the German Development Agency is willing to accompany those first steps,” he said.

Source: La Prensa Grafica