Enel Green Power?s new geothermal energy technologies

Geothermal energy is among the low-carbon energy sources with the highest growth rates. At present, 24 countries in the world are using it for electricity generation, and at least 60 use it directly for heating. At the end of 2010, the electrical installed capacity exceeded 10,700 MW, with highly significant development forecasts, especially regarding the development of new technologies and new applications.

According to the IEA (International Energy Agency) it is likely that the diffusion of geothermal energy will rise by at least 10 times by 2050 at a global level, thus meeting 3,5% of the global electricity demand (compared with the present 0.3%). Over the next few years, Pike Research foresees that the installed capacity will reach 25,000 MW by 2020.

Indeed, geothermal is an industry that is undergoing an acceleration as regards technological innovation. The aim is not only to increase efficiency and security while reducing the environmental impact of plants, but especially to follow totally new paths.

In this sector, EGP plays a central role, thanks to the expertise and research activities of Enel, which in the geothermal field has always been acknowledged as an undisputed leader.

EGP’s recent accomplishments include two binary cycle facilities in Nevada, that harness energy at medium temperature. These plants are among the most important in the world, due to the minimum temperature limits that have been reached and to their overall size (65 MW).

Furthermore, recently in one of these plants (47MW Stillwater) the world’s first integration of a photovoltaic solar energy plant (24 MW) into a geothermal facility was accomplished.

While in the other plant (18 MW Salt Wells), another unprecedented achievement is under development: the first integration between a geothermal facility and a solar thermodynamic one.

Finally (within partnerships with significant scientific partners, such as the Polytechnic of Milan and the MIT), a prototype of a supercritical binary reactor for low-temperature fluids in being developed, aimed at developing standardized plants that will be highly efficient at low cost, with the possibility of using again the surplus heat.