Using geo thermal energy a ‘must’ we are to reach renewable energy targets

Every part of the country has the potential to harness geothermal energy and the technology could play a key role in Ireland hitting its renewable energy targets.

Under binding EU targets, 16% of final energy use must be from renewable sources. This is broken down into 10% for transport, 12% for heat, and 10% for electricity.

Geothermal is a renewable form of energy that uses heat stored in the ground. It has an energy efficiency rating higher than any other renewable, is available 24/7, and is not weather-dependent.

It can be used to heat homes, to provide cooling in some applications, feed heat into district heating networks, generate power (if the geothermal resource is hot enough), or to provide therapeutic treatment in spas.

Research launched by the Geological Survey of Ireland at yesterday’s Geothermal Association of Ireland conference at the Energy Show 2016, highlights that every location in Ireland has the potential to harness shallow geothermal energy using ground source heat pumps.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Geothermal Association of Ireland chairman Ric Pasquali said geothermal energy was “one of Ireland’s hidden assets” when it comes to alternative means of heating and cooling homes and businesses.

“Ireland has an excellent source of shallow geothermal energy, which, coupled with a heat pump technology, can be used for space heating, cooling and hot water,” said Mr Pasquali. “It is also cost efficient, returning an average consistent delivery of up to four units of heat for every unit of electricity used to power the pumps. Geothermal is also the only renewable energy source that is available 24/7, regardless of climatic conditions.”

A number of buildings around the country are heated using shallow geothermal technology, including the Glucksman Gallery in Cork, the Cliffs of Moher Visitors’ Centre in Clare, and Ballyroan Library in South Dublin. However, this number needs to vastly improve if Ireland’s 2020 target is to be met.

This was highlighted in a new report by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), which said major action is required for Ireland if it is to achieve its commitments.

These include increasing the number of homes and businesses currently using some form of renewable heat technologies by sevenfold, building 125 wind turbines every year, and ensuring that one in every five new cars sold in Ireland is electric by 2020.

Currently, Ireland is just over halfway towards meeting its 2020 renewable energy target, with 8.6% of gross final consumption derived from renewables in 2014.

Mr Pasquali said the report highlighted just how far Ireland was from hitting its renewable energy targets.

“Figures on the progress of the renewable heat sector published by SEAI as part of the ‘Ireland’s Energy Targets — Progress, Ambition & Impacts’ report are quite concerning,” said Mr Pasquali. “They show that the number of homes and businesses availing of renewable heat technologies needs to increase sevenfold if Ireland is to reach its target of 12% of renewable heat by 2020.

“New policies and awareness measures are clearly needed.”


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