About the article: This special Renewable Energy Focus power generation focus previews REMIPEG's latest update, carried out in the first four months of 2012 by Lahmeyer International, and presents an overview for each renewable power sector, based on scenarios up to the end of 2011.
This article is taken from the July/August 2012 issue of Renewable Energy Focus (REFocus) magazine. For a free subscription, click here.
Part one - introduction (click here).
Part two - hydropower falls behind wind and biomass as growth dips
Part three - Wind market still on the up and dominated by China
Part four - 2011 strong year for solar PV despite support subsidies being slashed
Part five - Cost drivers fuel technology switch for concentrated solar
Part six - Biomass bolsters energy lead with increased electricity use
STOP PRESS - SEE ALSO Year in review 2012: Solar PV, by Paula Mints.
Part seven - Geothermal
GLOBALLY, 2011 was a poor year for the geothermal power market. While the previous few years had shown modest growth in terms of new capacity installed, figures for last year show new additions were down 43% on 2010. Just 225MW of new geothermal power generating capacity came into commercial operation in 2011.
The 2011 total is about 56% of the mean capacity installed annually for the 2007–2010 period and it takes the world's cumulative installed geothermal capacity to just under 11.28GW by the end of 2011. More than half the new capacity added last year was in North America (See table, page 48).
The 127.4MW installed – while not the largest in the region's history – was well up on 2010's 18.8MW and accounted for 56% of the 2011 world market. The North American market was split across four countries.
Nicaragua lead the way with the commissioning of the 36MW third phase of the San Jacinto-Tizate power plant. In Costa Rica, two 17.5MW units, at Las Pailas 1 and Las Pailas 2, were connected to the grid. In the US, several small binary plants were commissioned to give a country-wide total of 31.4MW – the largest US project was the Jersey Valley 1 development at 15MW. Lastly, in México, the ninth 25MW unit of the Los Humeros power plant started commercial operation.
Beyond North America
The country adding the greatest amount of new geothermal power generation capacity, however, was Iceland. The fifth phase of the Hellisheidi combined heat and power (CHP) geothermal plant started operation in October 2011, bringing online 90MW of additional electricity generation capacity.
The entire complex now has a total installed power generating capacity of 303MW, plus 133MW of thermal generation for space heating and hot water purposes.
Germany with 5MW and Kenya with 2.5MW also made small contributions to the global total. Kenya's project is based on a relatively new concept, geothermal wellhead power plant. With this system, just one well (delivering steam out of the earth) is connected to the power plant.
The aim of this technology is to be able to install all needed devices in containers and quickly move the plant to another well when required. The theory is it will help reduce the delay between investing large amounts of money into drilling and then having a power plant completely in operation.
While 2011 was a relatively dismal year in terms of capacity installed and connected to the grid, there is still a fair bit of activity planned for the future. In terms of plant planned or under construction, around 2.3GW is slated for the US, and another 2.25GW for Indonesia.
Meantime, over 1.8GW is planned or under construction across three other countries: New Zealand (638MW), Iceland (610MW), and the Philippines (615MW). Moreover, many other governments are starting to consider geothermal seriously as part of their strategies to meet renewable energy and carbon emission objectives.
Countries taking their first steps into the sector include Bolivia (with plans for 100MW), Chile (160MW), Djibouti (50MW) and Peru (40MW).
In terms of technology, the most significant development is the implementation of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS). With EGS technologies, the heat from hot rocks in deeper regions of the earth's crust (currently up to 5km) is extracted by circulating an energy transfer fluid. This can then be used to produce steam and generate electricity.
Essentially, EGS technology offers the possibility of building geothermal power plants where there is no naturally occurring steam or hot water – meaning that they can be built virtually anywhere in the world. While no EGS plants were actually built in 2011, in Europe alone 20 EGS projects were proposed or in the development phase last year.
Key events for geothermal in 20122
- In early 2011, Turkey ratified a law establishing guaranteed prices per kilowatthour for electricity generated from renewable energy sources. Under the new support mechanism, subsidy incentives are provided for ten years, extending to 15 years if equipment used is manufactured in Turkey. The price set for geothermal under the new law is US$0.105/kWh.
- Kenya's Geothermal Development Company announced plans for eight 100MW geothermal power plants. They will be built on the Bogoria-Silali geothermal block and are slated for completion by 2017. The World Bank and the government of Kenya are providing $3.1bn in funding for the project. Meantime, Kenya's government and the Great Wall Drilling Company have also sealed a deal for a thermal energy exploration campaign, covering 80 wells. Kenya's geothermal development is to serve as a model for the other members of the ARGeo group; an organization comprising Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. Specialists estimate the ARGeo area has the potential for 15MW of geothermal energy.
- The world's first offshore geothermal power plant will be built in Italy. In April 2011, it was announced that work could start in 2012 on the 2bn project to deploy heat produced by the largest undersea volcano in Europe, in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The complex will consist of four floating power plants, which will make use of the hot water coming from the volcano, which is 3km high, 70km long and 30km wide.
- In March 2011, Japan was struck by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, the strongest ever recorded in the country. While the impact on the nuclear sector has been widespread, following the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, all geothermal power plants located in the affected regions survived the catastrophe. Japan has 16 geothermal power plants with a combined capacity of 535MW in operation. Nine plants are located in northeastern to eastern Japan, which was most affected by the earthquake. Some had to be shut down immediately after the first earthquake, but all were able to restart operation a few days after and have been providing the same electricity output as before the incident.
- The International Energy Agency released its geothermal heat and power roadmap in June, recommending key actions for future development of the sector.
- In Germany, a new feed-in tariff for geothermal power was approved. After modification of the Renewable Electricity Law, the new tariffs are €0.25/kWh for all geothermal power, with an extra €0.05/kWh for Enhanced Geothermal Systems.
- In 2011 the Philippines government approved the construction of six geothermal power plants. According to the last update (September 2011) from the International Geothermal Association, the Philippines ranks second globally in terms of geothermal energy production, with 1904MW of installed capacity. Projects planned or under construction will take the country's capacity up to 2519MW.
- The World Wide Fund for Nature, Philippines (WWF-Philippines) and the Energy Development Corporation agreed to collaborate on the “ring of fire” initiative, a project supporting the development of geothermal energy in the Philippines and Indonesia. Indonesia already has more than 1GW of geothermal power but still has an untapped potential close to the 30GW mark.
Global geothermal power market, 2011: A poor year overall, but the US got moving again.
||Cumulated installed capacity 2011 (GW)
||Newly installed capacity 2011 (MW)
||Estimated electricity generation 2011 (TWh/year)
|Largest National Market
Part eight (out soon).