Ireland set to tap into geothermal energy

Ireland is to get its first geothermal energy plants over coming years as it aims to make the transition to a low carbon energy supply.

The country recently announced it has met its self imposed target of meeting 15% of its energy demand from renewable sources by 2010 but is still a long way off meeting its next milestone of 40% by 2020.

A partnership between two companies now looks set to add geothermal technology to the range of renewables deployed in the country, with expectations of delivering 50MW by 2020.

Geothermal energy is a renewable and sustainable energy source generated from the heat in the earth’s core.

It is harnessed by extracting hot water and/or steam from deep underground and using it to generate heat and electricity.

Although already widely used around the world in countries such as Iceland, the US, Italy, France and Germany, to date no deep geothermal projects have been completed in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

GT Energy and ESB International have signed an agreement to share technology and information on potential sites, including Dublin, that could be suitable for geothermal plants.

Gerry White, manager of Market and Technology Developments, ESBI, said: “We believe geothermal energy could have very significant potential in Ireland.

“This technology is very attractive because it is one of the very few renewable energy sources that is not intermittent.

“This means that it is not affected by time of day, season or meteorological conditions and is ‘always on’, thus giving it the distinct advantage of being able to deliver base load electricity to the grid.”

Padraig Hanly, MD of GT energy, added: “Unlike some other renewable energy sources, geothermal energy is likely to get a preferred status for grid connection to the all Ireland electricity grid because most of the projects’ installed generation capacity will be under 5MW, meaning that limited additional networks and capital investment is required to bring the electricity onto the existing grid network.”

Sam Bond

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