Contents and Goals
The development of geothermal technologies will facilitate a long-term economic and efficient use of the Earth's heat, which is available all year round and is not affected by seasonal changes. Research and Development (R&D) activities aim at providing an environmentally benign and sustainable production of electric power and heat as well as subsurface storage of heat and cold. In the long-term the supply of geothermal energy should become site-independent and tailored according to demand and thus supplementing, at the same time, other renewable energy sources.
Synergies are seen in connection with a series of developing fields of research. For example, efforts to increase drinking water and hydrocarbon production as well as to evolve technologies for underground storage of CO2 (sequestration) are included.
The strategy is based on the following stages of development and parameters of success: the technical feasibility of geothermal power production is to be demonstrated with one to three power plants set in regions of ordinary geothermal regime, which means energy is extracted from depths between 3000 and 4000 m. This task includes safeguarding the thermal fluid cycle and the optimising conversion technology at the surface. A special subject of research will be to investigate scenarios of enhancing productivity of thermal fluid recovery from the underground. Subsequently, power plants (10 installations) will be constructed in regions of different geology and geothermal conditions to aim at technology standardisation by developing site-independent, economic solutions for providing geothermal energy. In this way, engineering and geoscientific research needs will be closely interrelated.
The GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam (GFZ) has become one of the leading centres in Europe with respect to geothermal research, evolving through several joint ventures with national and international project partners. In addition to interdisciplinary basic research in Earth Science, aspects such as economic conditions and the technical feasibility of geothermal energy extraction have been investigated. At an international level, for example, through cooperation with Baltic States, potential geothermal resources were identified for future use and new experts were trained in geothermal energy extraction directly on-site. The GFZ's core competence in geosciences has been considerably strengthened by activities linked to demonstration plants. The current status of geothermal technology mandates finding solutions for key issues not only by means of applied but also extensive portions of basic research work.