Thursday, November 3, 2016

Australia: Researcher is Cautiously Optimistic About the Future of Geothermal Energy

'The heat is there': is there a future for geothermal energy in Australia? (The Guardian)

Despite millions of dollars invested, the Australian geothermal energy industry remains in its infancy. Will Arena’s cautious optimism be rewarded?

In July 2010, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena) took a $32m gamble on geothermal energy, investing in Australia’s first demonstration of geothermal electricity generation.

Six years later, the wells in South Australia’s Cooper Basin have been filled with concrete and abandoned, and the geothermal exploration company involved – Geodynamics Limited – has announced it is rebranding and pivoting to biogas, solar photovoltaic, battery storage and hybrid solutions.

Although geothermal energy is a mainstay of electricity generation in countries such as Iceland and El Salvador, the ancient, slumbering strata of Australia presents a more challenging landscape.

Since 2009 Arena has funded seven geothermal projects at a cost of more than $40m. Only one is still active.

Despite the hiccups faced so far, Dr Rowan Hansberry, a post-doctoral researcher at the South Australian centre for geothermal energy research is cautiously optimistic about the future of geothermal energy in Australia, pointing out that the heat is there but the biggest roadblock is our understanding of the geology.

“We really need to de-risk that drilling, because it’s far too expensive to go and drill a $150m well and then find out that we didn’t understand the reservoir or we didn’t understand the characteristics of what we were looking for.”