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Geothermal Energy

Current situation and prospects

The total installed capacity of geothermal energy in the world in 2015 was 82 GW. The deployment of geothermal installations is the largest, with around 50 GW installed in the world. In geographic terms, the installed capacity is mainly found in America (production of electricity), Europe (direct use and low enthalpy geothermal –low temperature-) and Asia (uniform distribution among all the technologies).

Installed capacity in electricity power plants is expected to surpass 16 GW in 2020, with average annual growth of 4%. As for energy for direct use, the figures for the last few years show a lesser presence of the main application, baths and swimming pools, in favour of district heating, which has awoken the interest of many European countries that have been installing it in recent years.

As regards low enthalpy geothermal installations, the number at global level was 4.16 million in 2015. The market grew 8.5% per annum on average in the period covering 2010- 2015. In Europe, where the main markets are Sweden, Germany and France, the market for this type of installations is expected to grow thanks to support from favourable European legislation on the development of more efficient buildings and the renewable energy targets set for 2020.

Installed capacity for direct use of geothermal energy by application GWth 2015

Source: Ren21

Market situation and technological trends

The size of the geothermal sector is smaller than other renewable industries, with few specialist companies active in the supply chain. It is a sector headed by large manufacturing companies that have opted for vertical integration and are present in many stages of the value chain of exploitation of geothermal energy. Many of these companies are leaders in a region or country, and in recent years have progressed towards the global expansion of their businesses. In certain stages of the value chain the companies opt for a different strategy based on offering highly specialised services such as the case of companies that work on soil boring and geothermal engineering.

In Europe, the overall geothermal market has evolved from fragmented distribution based on small local companies to a market dominated by large companies that manufacture heating and air conditioning systems. This is why the countries of origin of the main manufacturers on the continent coincide with the main markets of overall geothermal energy.

Geothermal energy in Euskadi

The installed capacity of geothermal energy in Euskadi is 17 MWg and a use of 1 ktep (0.3% of all renewable energies). The 700+ installations in our territory have entered service in the last decade, and their evolution has been closely linked to the construction cycle.

By sector, 63% of energy use corresponds to the housing sector, 32% to services and 5% to industry.

Vis-à-vis the next few years, the Energy Strategy for Euskadi 2030 (3E2030) sets a target of more than 40 MWg in 2020 and 250 MWg in 2030, with the weight of this technology in local renewable production growing by 2%.

To make progress towards this target, Euskadi’s potential is focused on the thermal exploitation of low enthalpy geothermal energy. Average potential of hydrothermal and aerothermal energy is observed, and in the long term (horizon 2030) the possible electrical use.

Technological development in low enthalpy geothermal energy will be marked, in the short and medium term, by the establishment of minimum quality standards to be complied with by installations created in Euskadi. The technology needed to implement this kind of system in single-family homes is not complex: a study of the thermal demand of the building, an estimate of the length of the heat exchange circuit required, and the installation of equipment suitable for the studied demand.

 

We should point out that geothermal energy, apart from being considered a renewable energy, offers a series of advantages against other types of technology:

  • Availability. Possible use in any environment, regardless of its location (urban, rural, industrial, etc.) or its geological nature.
  • Versatility. Possibility of supply of heating, cooling and even storage, with a single installation.
  • Applicability. Possibility of hybridization with other renewable sources, both thermal and electrical, and can also be used for the recovery of low enthalpy residual heat.

It is, therefore, an important technology for both the smart management of heat flows (in industry and services) and the storage of surplus heat for later use.

Basque Geothermal Energy Plan 2017-2020

In order to reach the targets set in the Energy Strategy for Euskadi by 2030, a Geothermal Plan 2017-2020 has been drawn up, including lines of action under two main themes: energy development and industrial promotion.

In the case of energy development, the actions are focused on promoting the adoption of geothermal technology in the buildings and services sectors, as well as in the industrial sector, looking for synergies with the development of thermal infrastructures in Euskadi.