Geothermal Heating & Cooling
Heating and cooling accounts for roughly 50% of EU’s final energy consumption. The EU agreed to increase the share of renewable heating and cooling by 1.3 percentage points annually from 2021 to 2030. Geothermal energy provides ample supplies of renewable heating and cooling which are key to displacing fossil fuel use in buildings, agriculture and industry.
85% of the energy consumed in households and residences is used for heating and cooling and hot water. The remaining 15% is used for lighting, electrical appliances, etc.
73% of industry energy consumption is for heating and cooling. The remaining energy consumption is used for mechanical applications powered by electricity.
For service buildings 63% of the energy consumed is for heating and cooling.
Decarbonization of heating and cooling with renewables have to be central to the Renovation Wave if it is to make a meaningful contribution to the EU’s 2050 climate targets.
Geothermal district heating, where the geothermal resource is connected to a heat network, is an ongoing European success story, with a rate at which new capacities installed are increasing every year. In a large geothermal heating system, geothermal energy comes from an underground reservoir of water and hot rocks and is transported through a distribution network into buildings or processed by industries.
Geothermal district heating and cooling systems meets the energy demands of buildings and industrial users alike. The system provides heat to various ranges from a small community to even an entire city. It can be tailored to suit different needs such as residential buildings, greenhouses, industries, offices, and countless others.
The first regions to install geothermal district heating were those with the best hydrothermal potential, but today, with new technologies and systems, an increasing number of regions are turning to it. Its potential is significant and clear, but a level playing field in the heating sector, with well-established and transparent support schemes, must be put in place to reap the full benefits of the latest technological developments. Some direct applications of geothermal district heating include desalination, growing plants in greenhouses, drying crops, snow-melting, and several industrial processes.
“More than 25% of the EU population lives in areas directly suitable for geothermal district heating”
Map of areas suitable for geoDH networks and actual geoDH installed capacity according to available geological data.
Geothermal heat for industry and services
Heating is by far the largest form of energy used in industrial processes. Currently, most of the industrial heat comes from fossil fuels. As various industries and economic sectors are hard pressed by policy makers and consumers to decarbonise their processes, geothermal appears as a clear solution in many cases.
The geothermal industry will need to address barriers in raising awareness, finding business models, and shaping the regulatory and support framework to accelerate the transition of process heat towards geothermal.
Geothermal heat production provides a continuous renewable energy supply at a vast range of temperature levels, for processes ranging from chemical production to paper making.
For example, the geothermal heat from the Rittershoffen heat plant, in the North of Alsace (France), is used for high temperature agri-food industrial processes. It covers 25% of the process heat needed on the «Roquette Frères» industrial site in Beinheim, located 15km from the drilling site.
Geothermal energy – a clean solution for the agri-food sector
Agriculture is one of the largest sectors both in the European Union and globally. Traditionally, fossil fuels have been used as the main energy resource for this sector. However, the European Green Deal and the EU’s 2050 climate neutrality target highlights a new challenge for the agri-food sector: the switch to a clean source of energy that is stable, cost-effective, and local to combat climate change.
Geothermal energy has been increasingly used for the last 25 years in such areas as greenhouses, aquaculture, agro-industrial processes, and soil heating. Much of the energy used is for low and medium level heat (less than 200°C), which makes geothermal energy suitable for these applications.
Moreover, the use of geothermal energy (for both industry and agriculture) employs already around 9,000 people across Europe and the number is expected to grow.
Geothermal energy – a clean solution for the e-mobility
Lithium is a key component of an electric vehicle battery and the demand for it is expected to grow exponentially over the coming years. Globally, all regions are looking to tap into the valuable resource that is this metal.
The geothermal sector is set to become a key player of the global lithium market with the emergence of geothermal lithium technologies.
Geothermal lithium is the extraction of lithium from geothermal brine, typically in the form of lithium carbonates which can then be used to manufacture batteries. Geothermal lithium differs from traditional lithium mining in that it has far lesser environmental impacts. It has a marginal ground and water footprint and does not cause widespread devastation associated with conventional unsustainable lithium production. While traditional lithium brines rely on evaporation processes to collect the precious metal, with significant environmental impacts, geothermal lithium maintains the brine as a nearly closed loop to ensure the sustainability of the geothermal reservoir. From one single installation, electricity, heating and cooling and lithium can be produced.
The global race to optimise geothermal lithium took off with France, UK and Germany leading the European charge in this field. Lithium-ion is the key ingredient in mobile electric batteries which are essential to the electrification of transport as well as wearable technologies and medical applications.
Importantly, geothermal lithium radically changes the economics of heating and electricity capacity.
The GeoDH project, from 2011-2014, aimed to overcome the non-technical barriers to the development of Geothermal District heating, specifically by:
- Increasing awareness amongst policy and decision makers from national authorities about the potential of this technology
- Developing strategies for the simplification of the administrative and regulatory procedures and, in some cases, the filling of regulatory gaps
- Developing Innovative Financial Models
- Training technicians, civil servants and decision-makers of regional and local authorities to provide the technical background necessary to approve and support projects
Geothermal heat pumps for heating and cooling
Geothermal heat pumps take advantage of subterranean temperatures at shallow depths (between 0 and 500m) to provide heating in the winter and cooling in the summer to homes, businesses and industries. The whole system is very simple and can be installed almost anywhere. The installation of boreholes allows the exchange of geothermal energy between the ground and the building (simply by circulating roundwater or a brine through pipes). Geothermal heat pumps provide the most efficient and cheapest energy in Europe because they operate using constant underground temperature. They can use virtually every temperature level in the underground, even if it is only 3-15 °C.
Geothermal heat pumps are very versatile and can be adapted to almost every subsurface condition. They can be used in different kind of structures, from small, residential houses to large individual buildings or complexes of buildings, such as offices, hotels, schools, shopping centres, and so on.
The Heat Under Your Feet
The heat under your feet is an initiative launched in April 2015 within the framework of the ReGeoCities project to disseminate information and awareness about geothermal heat pumps in Europe and to promote their use.