Geothermal in the spotlight


Till Eulenspiegel by M. Urlik.

In recent years, the number of geothermal power plants for heat and electrical power production has increased steadily in Central Europe. In Germany, this does not only apply to the deep geothermal systems in the Molasse Basin, but also wells drilled in the Upper Rhine Graben. In this geologically challenging region, two demonstration plants were developed and implemented in Insheim and Landau. After five years of valuable operational experience, the Landau project is currently being extended by a second injection well.


In hindsight, this can be seen as a particularly positive development, since, after a series of seismic events in Basel and Landau in the years of 2006 and 2009, operators had found themselves at the center of a controversial public debate. During that time, geothermal energy was not only in the political spotlight, but also publically contested by local citizens. The lesson to be learned from the strong


public reaction


against geothermal energy is that operators still have a ways to go in terms of public interest in acceptance. There certainly is a need to promote geothermal energy and to inform about its risks and advantages in order to ease public anxiety. With the purpose of inciting a meaningful dialogue between operators and local citizens, in January of 2011, the federal government of the Rhineland-Palatinate organized a mediation session on deep geothermal systems in the south-eastern Palatinate. The technical discussions of the mediation were completed in March 2012 with a paper of agreement. Throughout the mediation process, representatives of both sides had worked and finally agreed on a set of general regulations for the development of future geothermal projects in that region. A crucial aspect of said agreement was the question of how to


involve locals.


How can public involvement be implemented and facilitated? How have other countries tackled the issue of public involvement, particularly with regard to authorities? Is there adequate previous experience in promoting public acceptance?


Germany’s energy turn-around


As a consequence of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the German government implemented a drastic change in energy policy, known as Germany’s energy turn-around, a process that will be primarily based on the development and use of alternative energy resources. Nevertheless, we may have to ask ourselves if Germany’s energy transition indicates a global trend towards alternative energies and what role geothermal energy will play in this context. It is the primary goal of the Third European Geothermal Review to discuss future strategies and technologies in the field, with a particular focus on recent challenges in the development and operation of geothermal production plants. The conference is intended as an international forum that offers the kind of much needed dialogue long established in neighboring fields of alternative energy technology.