By Damien Linhart.
Construction of the first geothermal power plant in Višegrad countries started in Tura in Hungary last June.
Geothermal consists in using the underground energy. Techniques and fields of application depend on the temperature. High geothermal energy uses very high temperature waters or deep drillings and is mainly used for electricity generation. Low geothermal energy (between 30°C and 100°C) is mainly used for district heating. And regarding very low geothermal energy (between 10°C and 30°C) the most known application is heat pumps.
A Huge Potential in Hungary
Hungary has important low temperature geothermal resources (historically used in baths) and a unique geological position to produce electricity. The country has indeed the largest underground hot waters reserves in Europe. More than 300 wells and hot springs are exploited for thermal and recreational uses. But the potential remains under exploited, especially for electricity production. Poland and Slovakia have also low temperature resources, but not for electricity production.
Hot spring waters have been used for centuries in baths and swimming pools. According to the GeoHeat Center, this utilization represents 13% of geothermal heat capacity production in the world in 2015. But today, heat pumps represent the main utilization with 70% of the worldwide capacity. Geothermal energy is also used in district heating (11%). Other utilizations are greenhouses heating, farming and industry. But geothermal energy remains marginal since it covers only 2,1% of heat demand in Hungary, 0,8% in Slovakia, 0,2% in Czechia and 0,1% in Poland.
First Power Generation From Geothermal Energy in V4 Ever To Be
In European Union, Italy is the largest electricity producer from geothermal energy with some 900 MW capacity and an annual generation of 6 TWh (Portugal is the second biggest producer with 250 GWh/year) (1). The Hungarian geothermal power plant in Tura is built by KS Orka Renewables Pte Ltd of Singapore which acquired a 51% stake of the project from a local developer. Investment is HUF 5 billions (EUR 16 millions). The 2.7 MW plant will generate electricity in 2017 and will also supply with heat a 100,000 m² greenhouse.
Geothermal power production is a mature technology which generation costs are similar to wind power. As other renewable energies, it is supported with feed-in-tariffs which are different from country to another. Tariffs are the highest in Slovakia (237 €/Mwh), twice as much as in Hungary (117 €/MWh). For EU-funded GEOFAR, the water fee to use geothermal water has increased substantially in Hungary, becoming a significant operating cost. If Hungary really wants to develop geothermal energy and exploit its massive potential, the sector has to be more supported, especially making financing easier, supporting R&D and rising feed-in-tariffs.
(1) In the world, Italy is the fifth electricity producer from geothermal energy. The first are the USA with 20 TWh a year, more than half of world geothermal electricity production.