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Planning permission granted for Ireland's First Geothermal Electricity Generation Plant

- GT Energy calls on Irish Government to introduce a Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff (REFIT) for Geothermal Energy to ensure Plant is operational within two years

GT Energy, a leading company that specialises in harnessing deep geothermal energy has just received planning approval from South Dublin County Council for Ireland’s first geothermal electricity plant.

The new power plant will be erected on a site in Newcastle, South County Dublin. It will be capable of generating up to 3.3 megawatts of electricity using geothermal energy, which will be fed into the national electricity grid. Uniquely for a renewable electricity plant, it will be able to deliver base load electricity to the national grid. One of the distinct advantages of geothermal energy over other forms of renewable energy is that it is not intermittent, is unaffected by seasons or meteorological conditions and is ‘always on’.

To ensure the plant is operational as soon as possible and to facilitate the development of a geothermal energy industry in Ireland, Padraig Hanly, Managing Director GT Energy has called on the Government to introduce a Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff (REFIT) for geothermal energy as a matter of urgency, akin to that applying to wind power.

“We very much welcome how swiftly the Minister and the Government are moving on introducing legislation for geothermal energy in Ireland, which is urgently required.  However, it is crucial that the government establishes certainty around REFITs for geothermal energy.  Ireland’s first geothermal electricity plant could be operational within two years of a REFIT implementation; this would facilitate and incentivise the development of a whole new industry in the country.”

Hanly pointed out that in Germany, where such incentives are in place, geothermal energy has grown to become a significant industry worth over €3 billion and with over 150 geothermal projects currently in development.

He added, “While great strides are being made towards reaching the 2020 target of having 40% of Ireland’s electricity produced from renewable energy, there needs to be a more dedicated approach to meeting the thermal energy target of 12%.  The harnessing of deep geothermal energy presents a significant opportunity to meet this target.”

GT Energy established the potential of the South County Dublin area by conducting drill testing of a site in Newcastle, Co. Dublin in 2007 and 2008.  Hanly believes the geological conditions are such in South Dublin that the area could possibly support three heat harnessing facilities which between them could provide up to 100MW of base load thermal energy with potential also to generate enough electricity to heat 100,000 homes.

Geothermal energy is a renewable and sustainable energy source generated from the heat in the earth’s core. It is harnessed by extracting hot water and/or steam through boreholes from deep underground and using it to generate heat and electricity. Although already widely used around the world in countries such as Germany, the US, Iceland, Italy and France, to date no deep geothermal projects have been completed in Ireland.

The first phases of the Newcastle plant’s construction will involve the drilling and testing of the required wells followed by the construction of the actual electricity generation facility. Subject to the required planning, licensing, legislation and REFITs being in place, drilling of the wells will commence in early 2011 and the plant is scheduled to be operational and connected to the national grid in late 2012.

In May 2010, GT Energy announced a Technology Partnership Agreement (TPA) with ESB International (ESBI). The two companies will work together to share information, expertise and resources to support GT Energy’s plans to develop a number of deep geothermal electricity projects across the Island of Ireland.

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