LCEDN Rapid Response Reviews:
What are the key issues regarding the role of geothermal energy in meetingenergy needs in the global south?
the potential of geothermal far exceeds that of all other renewable sourcestogether
, although investment in the other sources to date has far exceeded investment ingeothermal.
World Energy Assessment
estimates in 2000 for the global potential of allrenewables (EJ/yr) were Geothermal 5000, Solar 1575, Wind 640, Biomass 276, Hydro 50,giving a total of 7541 (UNDP, 2000).
When installed, geothermal plants have a far highercapacity factor than other sources
(solar depends on the level of direct insolation
, wind power on wind, etc.); estimates (REN21, 2009) give wind-power 21%, solar PV 14% butgeothermal is at least as high as 75% and often more than 95%, given that once a plant isestablished it operates continuously except for routine down-time for maintenance and rare break-downs.Geothermal resources are not a homogenous whole, however, and
the nature of theresource is an important factor
(Goldstein et al, 2011).
If the geothermal resource is in anarea of high enthalpy, such as tectonic margins, it can be used to produce
super-heatedsteam for electricity generation
. Even in those cases where there is sufficient heat to beused for electricity generation, however, there is a choice of technology – although the mostappropriate form of generation will generally be determined by the exact nature of theresource to be exploited: dry steam (for the relatively rare instances of dry stream fields),flash steam (for the highest temperature resources) and binary cycle (whether Organic Rankinor Kalina Cycle: for lower temperatures).Geothermal plants are already playing a significant role in the electricity generation profile of countries in the global south –
“among the top fifteen countries in electricity productionwith geothermal, there are ten developing countries”
(Fridleifsson, 2007) - examplesinclude the Philippines, Kenya, Indonesia, Mexico and several Central American states.
There remains considerable potential for further investment in countries with theappropriate geological profile.
As binary cycle technologies improve (with smart design,they can currently be operated economically with waters of temperatures as low as 95C) the potential for geothermal power generation can be expanded to countries outside of activetectonic/volcanic areas. An important principle (to date rather neglected in many developingcountry geothermal developments - cf Mburu and Kinyanjui. 2012), is the concept of cascading use, where the effluent hot water from electricity generation is next exploited for direct use purposes (Younger, 2012).Direct use is not only feasible in high-enthalpy geothermal fields: in non-volcanic regions,
geothermal resources of low enthalpy
(such as within sedimentary basins)
can be used toprovide heat directly for a range of purposes
such as space heating and cooling, swimming
This rapid response review was edited by Ed Brown and Jonathon Cloke on behalf of the LCEDN, it drawsupon contributions from Richard Blanchard, Ed Brown, Jon Cloke, David Fisk, Jon Gluyas, Aled Jones. DavidRead and Paul Younger.
Although new ‘nano-antenna’ technology permits solar panels to work without direct insolation; thistechnology and new grapheme-based panels stand to greatly increase the efficiency of solar panels.