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What are the main geothermal energy technologies, and which of these technologies has the greatest potential on the European market?

E.H.: Geothermal energy technologies depend on the specific geological setting. We have hot water bearing horizons in many parts of Europe. We call them hydrothermal reservoirs. In addition, the ground all across Europe has increasing temperature with depths. The horizons which do not bear water are called petrothermal systems. A general technology to economically exploit these reservoirs is to follow the so called concept of Enhanced (or Engineered) Geothermal Systems (EGS). The EGS concept includes artificial improvement of the hydraulic performance of a reservoir with the goal of using it as a source for the economic supply of heat or electric energy. The enhancement challenge involves the use of several non-conventional methods for exploring, developing and exploiting geothermal resources that are not considered economically viable with the use of conventional methods.

What is the current contribution of geothermal to the EU energy mix and how is this share expected to change in the medium to long term?

E.H.:The current contribution is still very small compared to the huge existing potential. In the medium term a significant increase in geothermal heat supply can be expected, with a significant increase in geothermal power production in the long term. In the past we observed an increase in capacity of one order of magnitude in 20 years. With investment in research and development we have the chance to accelerate the deployment of geothermal technologies. However, it is important to note that a project with deep drill holes takes several years to implement and therefore the learning curve cannot be as steep as with other technologies, such as solar and wind, for example.

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Geothermal district heating involves the use of geothermal energy to provide heating to residential, commercial and industrial buildings through a heat distribution network. The first regions in Europe to install geothermal district heating systems were those with the best hydrothermal potential

GROUND-MED (Advanced ground source heat pump systems for heating and cooling in a Mediterranean climate) is a project financed under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) that aims to verify the sustainability of heat pump technology for heating and cooling of buildings in a Mediterranean climate and to demonstrate the next generation of ...

EGS, Enhanced Geothermal Systems, represent an opportunity for Europe to increase the number of viable geothermal sources for the production of electricity and/or heat, and build on the positive results obtained by the Soultz-sous-Forêts FP6 (Framework Programme 6) project.

Geothermal energy is defined as heat from the earth. In practical terms, geothermal resources are thermal energy reservoirs that can be exploited at costs competitive with other forms of energy and are classified according to their reservoir fluid temperatures into low-, medium- and high-enthalpy fields.

In 2010, after more than 20 years of research, development and testing, an experimental 2.1 MW geothermal power plant in Soultz-sous-Forêts, 50 km north of Strasbourg (France), became the first Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) plant to be connected to the electricity grid.

Central-Eastern European countries have exceptional geothermal resources, which are either unexploited due to a lack of technological know-how, or their utilisation is being conducted in an unsustainable manner.

In theory, constant, base-load electricity could be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with near-zero carbon emissions, almost anywhere in the world. This is because there is hot rock beneath our feet, no matter where we are. Unfortunately, because of the thermal gradient in most parts of the world,...