MIL-OSI Translation: The actual potential for deep geothermal energy is still unexplored

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MIL OSI translation. Region: Germany/Germany –

Source: Swiss Kanton Nidwalden News in German9. May 2022In its response to a push for deep geothermal energy, the government council confirms its theoretical potential in the canton of Nidwalden. At the same time, however, he points to the mediocre data basis and the high costs. The technology is in the development phase and must first prove itself in pilot projects in Switzerland. Geothermal energy is stored underground heat that can be used in a climate-friendly, renewable and weather-independent manner. Depending on the depth, one speaks of shallow, medium-deep and deep geothermal energy. From a depth of around 20 meters, the temperature rises by around 1 °C every 33 meters on average. District Administrator Josef Bucher (Die Mitte) expresses concerns that the local resources of wind and hydropower, solar energy and biomass in Nidwalden will not be sufficient to achieve the goals of the Energy Strategy 2050. Therefore, the great potential of reliable deep geothermal energy is a great and sustainable opportunity, he states in his interpellation. In 2014, Roland Wyss GmbH, which specializes in geological consulting, prepared a report on the use of natural gas and deep geothermal energy on behalf of the canton of Nidwalden. According to this study, the potential for deep geothermal energy is estimated to be above average compared to the Mittelland, writes the government council in its response to the proposal. However, the actual technical and economic potential is not yet known. The currently still large uncertainties result in particular from the complex structure of the underground, the few sources of information and the sometimes poor data quality. Without in-depth investigations, it is not possible to rule out an economically viable plant location. “In order to take into account the high potential of deep geothermal energy for the future production of electricity and heat, more detailed and high-quality data on the deep underground are necessary,” explains Agriculture and Environment Director Joe Christen subsidies, it cannot be operated economically at the moment. The technology required for this is in the development phase and must first be used successfully in pilot projects. A groundbreaking project for electricity production from deep geothermal energy is the current pilot project Haute-Sorne in the Jura, where two wells of 5 km each are planned. The Nidwalden government council is looking forward to the results of the pilot projects. He has therefore not yet considered any deep drilling of his own. Despite the apparently existing potential, the risk of costly failure or not finding what you are looking for is high. In addition, the risk of artificially triggered earthquakes, so-called induced seismicity, must not be ignored and must be clarified in depth. It is therefore essential, especially for smaller cantons such as Nidwalden, to work together with other cantons and the federal government to develop and transfer knowledge on the use of deep geothermal energy and to identify suitable locations. In a next step, the first priority for the canton of Nidwalden would be indirect exploration of the subsoil by processing and reinterpreting existing data, supplemented by the acquisition of more detailed data and evaluating the seismic activities in the region. In the study by Roland Wyss GmbH at the time, the costs for this step were estimated at up to CHF 5.5 million. “Deep drilling itself should in any case only be tackled when better knowledge of the structure of the subsoil is available, a risk analysis has been carried out and the optimal drilling locations have been determined,” adds governor Joe Christen. For various reasons, such as the fact that the knowledge gained can also be valuable for other underground uses, it should be considered whether this detailed exploration of the deep underground should be tackled at an early stage.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and/or sentence structure not be perfect.

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