GeoSmart project targets improvement of flexibility and efficiency of geothermal plants

Well at geothermal site in Balmatt, Belgium (source: GeoSmart project website)
Alexander Richter 3 Feb 2020

With two demonstration projects, the EU-funded GeoSmart research project aims to optimise and demonstrate innovations to improve the flexibility and efficiency of geothermal heat and power systems in operating plants.

As part of the GeoSmart research project, funded by the European Union, two demonstrations will be carried out with the aim of optimizing geothermal technologies, increasing their competitiveness for the development of intelligent and flexible systems.

The sites of Kizildere in Turkey and Balmatt in Belgium are serving as demonstration sites for the project

In the future, energy systems will have to face major operational difficulties, as regards reliability, increasingly subject to fluctuations due to the progressive integration of random sources such as solar and wind into the energy mix. In order to balance these instabilities, it is increasingly necessary and strategic to use reliable and sustainable energy sources, which can be used in most of Europe.

And precisely geothermal energy – thanks to its modularity and continuous availability over time – has the potential to become an excellent source, able to respond flexibly to energy demand, ensuring low environmental impacts.

To meet these needs, the GeoSmart project was launched , funded under the EU research and innovation program Horizon 2020. Made up of a partnership of 19 subjects coordinated by TWI Ltd. (United Kingdom) which sees for Italy CoSviG (the Consortium for the Development of Geothermal Areas) and Spike Renewables, the project aims to optimize and demonstrate innovative solutions, to improve the flexibility and efficiency of geothermal plants through the construction of demonstration sites inside plants already in operation.

In order to obtain reliable results for the different technologies that use geothermal resources in Europe, the project plans to test experimental solutions on two types of systems for the combined production of heat and electricity: high enthalpy systems, which use flash technology, and low enthalpy, combined with binary cycles.

The first demonstration site will be built in Kizildere, where the oldest geothermal power plant installed in Turkey is present: a flash technology power plant, powered by high enthalpy resources and managed by Zorlu Energy. In this site, Zorlu Energy is planning to increase the capacity and efficiency of the system, by demonstrating thermal energy storage systems, as well as increasing the extraction of heat from the reservoir, by reducing temperatures reinjection. As reported by Zourlu Energy in fact “the GeoSmart project offers very innovative solutions to compensate the networks during peak hours of electricity demand, with the addition of thermal storage systems capable of releasing steam or hot fluids in periods of greatest energy demand by the network. Zorlu Energy is excited to share its long-standing geothermal experiences with other European partners. ”

The second demonstration site, on the other hand, will be built at the newly built Balmatt plant (Belgium): a binary cycle power plant that uses deep geothermal fluids at around 120 degrees Celsius, built and managed by VITO. The goal of GeoSmart for this site is to demonstrate the added value of thermal energy storage, to increase the flexibility and efficiency of the system in the production of heat and electricity from geothermal energy. The preservation of heat at high temperatures will in fact allow to evaluate the possibility of modulating the supply of thermal energy to an already existing district heating network, as well as varying the electrical generation of the ORC (Organic Rankine Cycle) group at peak demand times. part of the networks. The other innovative intervention planned for Balmatt will see the construction of an additional thermal storage.

In this case, it will be a seasonal accumulation, through the use of ATES (Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage) technology to service the fluid cooling system downstream of the electricity generation. In the summer months, ORC will be more efficient and produced than traditional dry or adiabatic cooling systems for binary cycles.

In this project, started in June 2019 and lasting 48 months, “CoSviG will play an important role in providing the partnership with its skills and experience in the removal of non-technical obstacles” – reports dr. Dario Bonciani, referent of the project for the Consortium for the Development of Geothermal Areas – promoting policies favorable to the implementation of the results obtained by GeoSmart and contributing to the development and analysis of technical-economic performance. Thanks to the important role played in the geothermal sector at national level – continues Bonciani – CoSviG will also deal with the dissemination activities of the results in Italy, with the ultimate goal of promoting the diffusion in the national market of the technological solutions identified by the project,

Further information and updates on the project are available on the project website