New study highlights potential of binary geothermal technology in Italy
Larderero geothermal power plant cooling tower, Tuscany/Italy (Source: flickr/Giacomo Carena, Creative Commons)

A study published by Rete Geotermica investigates the potential for implementing binary geothermal technology in Italy and how this can be made possible with policy support.

A study published by Rete Geotermica in collaboration with The European House – Ambrosetti highlights the untapped potential of binary geothermal power plant technology in Italy. Such technologies can harness low-enthalpy geothermal resources that can contribute up to 10% of a country's electricity generation or 25% of its thermal energy consumption.

The full report is available at“Zero emissions to accelerate decarbonization in Italy” / “Zero emission geothermal to accelerate decarbonization and promote development in Italy” You can access it from this link.

Binary power plant – an untapped resource in Italy

Despite the popularity of binary power plants and ORC technology in geothermal projects around the world, there are currently no power plants of this type in operation in Italy. All operational geothermal power plants operated by Enel Green Power use dry steam or flash technology to harness energy from hot geothermal fluids.

According to the study, tapping just 2% of geothermal resources in the first 5 kilometers deep could contribute to 10% of the country's projected electricity demand by 2050. Conversely, using this energy for heating could contribute to up to 25% of your electricity needs. Current heating consumption.

In addition, binary power plants allow fluids to be fully reinjected underground, making them “zero-emissions” facilities.

Mr. Ambrosetti highlighted the synergies of geothermal development, saying that every euro invested in geothermal creates an additional two euros of value for the rest of the economy. Geothermal creates approximately 6,131 new jobs for every GW installed, making it the green technology with the most job opportunities.

Huge pipeline of geothermal projects

Members of the industry association Rete Geotermica are currently developing 44 geothermal projects with an expected generation capacity of more than 800 MWe and an investment of around €8 billion.. “Unfortunately, due to the complex permitting process and lack of appropriate supportive policies for the development of this type of project, no plants have been built to date.” Fausto Battini, president of Lete Geotermica, explains:

Rete Geotermica is an association of companies born out of the desire of some operators with research permits to create a supply chain that can take advantage of Italy's widespread geothermal resources. This also includes companies offering highly specialized services in the field of exploration (geological, geochemical and geophysical characterization) and feasibility and subsequent engineering studies. Suppliers of binary ORC systems are also part of this association.

The challenges posed by the lack of policy support were echoed by Matteo Quaia, general manager of Rete Geotermica and CEO of Steam Srl. “Despite the liberalization of the monopoly on geothermal resource development that took place more than a decade ago and the resulting significant interest from the private sector, the development of more than 70 projects with a development potential of 1.2 or higher has emerged. GW To date, no factories have been built due to this. Complex approval processes and lack of appropriate policies to support development-type projects. After all, this is a wasted opportunity so far and we don't want to give up on losing it. ”

A call for legislative support

One of the aims of publishing this report is to create awareness among Italian stakeholders that this could lead to a simplification of the approval process for geothermal projects, similar to what is happening in much of Europe. Yes, and is consistent with European policy on issues related to geothermal projects. Changes in energy.

Ambrosetti said the high risks of initial exploration and overly complex permitting processes are the main factors preventing further geothermal development. To overcome these, the report makes several recommendations, including:

  • An incentive rate of €300/MWh applies for the first 10 years, reducing to €200 for the next 15 years.
  • Risk avoidance measures to protect investors from the inherent risks of discovery in geothermal projects, such as drilling the first exploratory well.and
  • Streamlined and optimized authentication process.

“We need a national energy strategy that recognizes the full potential of zero-emissions geothermal technology. Achieving this strategy will require a national energy sector strategy, particularly for energy and climate. Part of the strategy listed in the National Integration Plan (PNIEC) includes identifying clear goals for geothermal development.” Queer added.

“Additionally, we propose the creation of a National Geothermal Authority to oversee the geothermal industry and ensure a more efficient and comprehensive development plan.”

restore former glory

Italy at one time held the fourth place in the world in terms of installed geothermal power generation capacity. He then fell back to 8th place. Of course, the fact that no new power plants have been installed in over a decade is indicative of a larger systemic problem.

However, Italy has the technical expertise and capacity to support the revival of the local geothermal industry. Ironically, Italian companies have contributed significantly to the growth of geothermal industries in many other countries. “While participating companies are providing design and consulting services and building more than 1GW of plants overseas, the contrast with the stagnation that has occurred over the past decade in terms of new capacity is very thought-provoking.” Quire commented:

Italy is certainly well placed to regain leadership in the geothermal sector. We have both practical know-how in the field and world-renowned power plant suppliers, perhaps the most famous being binary ORC suppliers Exergy and Turboden. There are also internationally recognized engineering and consulting firms in both the upstream and downstream fields. [subsurface] and downstream [surface facilities]This includes major companies such as SLB, private companies such as Idrogeo and Sintecnica, and our own specialist company Steam. ”

Back to top 3?

With over 1.2 GW of potential geothermal capacity in various stages of development, if these projects are brought forward quickly, Italy could easily return to the top three in the global geothermal capacity ranking. Continuing to export expertise from Italy will also benefit the wider global geothermal sector.

“We are confident that Rete Geotermica’s commitment to fostering this ecosystem, supporting industry leaders and fostering innovation through research and development initiatives will fully unleash our national capabilities and put Italy back in the world of geothermal technology.” We believe this is the right approach to positioning ourselves as a global hub.”

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