The Social & Environmental Aspects of Geothermal Energy
Deep geothermal has a great potential for development in many European countries. However, the advantages of using geothermal for power production and heating & cooling are not widely known. Recently, deep geothermal energy production in some regions is confronted with a negative perception, particularly in terms of environmental performance, which could hinder its market uptake. Thus, environmental impact assessment is a prerequisite to the deployment of the deep geothermal resources. The concept of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) allows analysis and comparison of the environmental impacts of different energy production technologies over their life cycle stages – from extraction of raw materials to production, transport, use and end-of-life.
The GEOENVI project aimed at answering environmental concerns in terms of both impacts and risks, by first setting an adapted methodology for assessing environment impacts to the project developers, and by assessing the environmental impacts and risks of geothermal projects in Europe.
The project proposed recommendations on harmonised European environmental regulations to the decision-makers and elaborate simplified LCA models to assess environmental impacts.
The project, coordinated by EGEC and funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, was for 30 months from November 2018. Read more at www.geoenvi.eu
GEOENVI main results
To map Environmental impacts and risks, as well as their perception and to define how environmental footprint of deep geothermal plants in Europe is measured and controlled in different countries
To build a harmonized methodology to assess environmental impacts of geothermal plants using a life cycle approach
To engage decision-makers and market actors to adopt recommendations on regulations and to see the LCA methodology implemented by geothermal stakeholders.
To communicate on the environmental aspects of geothermal energy in a comprehensive and objective way, also thanks to the #ThisWeeksGoodNews media campaign.
LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT METHODOLOGY FOR DEEP GEOTHERMAL ENERGY PROJECTS
The GEOENVI project developed a simplified Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) method to assess the environmental impacts of deep geothermal energy plants that are planned or already in operation. The purpose of this methodology is to help geothermal project developers to evaluate the environmental performance of their planned project, in particular against fossil alternatives.
The use of the GEOENVI LCA methodology allows to quickly quantify what benefits will result from the development of the geothermal project. This will also help with public acceptance and engagement.
LCA experts and geothermal energy stakeholders came together to design this LCA methodology in the framework of the GEOENVI project. The aim was to identify how to best quantify the expected environmental impacts and benefits of a planned geothermal project. The experts used several case studies to develop this methodology, providing a typology of geothermal power and heat plants.
From the full assessment of several key case studies, the experts established a simplified methodology. Developers can use this methodology to obtain a reliable estimate of the environmental impacts of their planned project, which can feed into required documents, such as Environmental Impact Assessments.
The GEOENVI project started in November 2018 and ended in April 2021.
Watch below GEOENVI’s webinar on the new LCA tool
Access the GEOENVI LCA toolkit
The GEOENVI project focused on six key countries with varying deep geothermal potential, markets maturity, and geological settings: France, Italy, Belgium, Iceland, Turkey and Hungary. These countries were selected because they have a potential for deep geothermal and there are plants already operating or under development.
They also presented different and complementary geological settings, as well as profiles of environmental concerns. By collecting information in these countries, knowledge gained in experienced markets were made accessible and transferred to stakeholders in less developed markets all over Europe.
This mix of case studies also allowed for combined projects at different phases of development, with difference about the most important environmental impacts and concerns, difference in the stakeholders involved, and with different geothermal technologies and geology. The core of the project consisted in a suite of site-specific case studies in which environmental impacts and risks were assessed for a life cycle assessment.Learn more about the project here