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Capacity building events: Iceland and Norway

In April and May 2022 project partners visited donor countries.

To facilitate geothermal energy development in Europe, the User4GeoEnergy project aims to transfer the know-how and good practices between donor and beneficiary countries to increase the efficiency of geothermal district heating systems in Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. This is intended to bring environmental benefits, i.e. decrease air pollution, reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and maintain long-term sustainable production from geothermal reservoirs. Meeting these goals should also contribute to making geothermal DH systems more prevalent in cities and in general - contribute to mitigating climate change and increasing energy security.

The primary purpose of “Capacity building events (WP3)” was to develop learning materials and capacity building for beneficiary partners in Iceland and Norway. In April and May 2022 project partners visited donor countries.

Study visit to Iceland

The study visit to Iceland took place from 26th to 28th April 2022. The visit organiser was the National Energy Authority (Orkustofnun) from Iceland. During the visit to Iceland, the focus was on presenting the activities and products of companies in Iceland using geothermal energy in their processes. Also, selected geothermal district heating systems in SW Iceland were visited.

A meeting at 26th April was held at the National Energy Authority where Halla Hrund Logadóttir, Director of Energy, welcomed the group and had a presentation as well as Marta Ros Karlsdóttir, Director of Sustainable use of natural resources. The host, Orkustofnun, welcomed the project group to their localities, and Halla Hrund Logadóttir and Marta R. Karlsdóttir gave an interesting overview of Iceland’s geothermal energy history. This was followed by a brief presentation of the project and the project partners. Companies and institutions in Iceland related to geothermal energy then had short presentations about their activities where there was an opportunity for discussions between the parties.

During that day project partners had the opportunity to see the local district heating system in Seltjarnarnes, just outside Reykjavik, where six wells give the heating required for the whole community. The next stop was the creative community Gróska. Here, the Georg and Geothermica projects were presented, as well as the company Laxar, who uses warm water to grow smolt.

Visits were also made to various companies related to the utilisation of geothermal energy and to the geothermal power plants in Hellisheidi and Reykjanes, where rapid development has taken place. There, the group met companies that use geothermal energy in various products and services and related activities. The leading companies the group visited were Hitaveita Seltjarnarnes, HS Orka, Bláa lónið, Geothermal Research Cluster (GEORG), Geothermica, Laxar aquaculture, ON, Carbfix, Climeworks, GeoSilica, Friðheimar, Varmaorka, Flúðasveppi and Límtré.

The second day started at Reykjavik Geothermal Power Plant, Hellisheiði. A short presentation of the power plant was given, including a view of the hot water pipes' cross section that allows the water temperature to drop only 2°C on the way to Reykjavik. Then, several companies in the surrounding industry park presented themselves. This included Carbfix, which dissolves CO2 in water, and injects the mixture into the bedrock where solid carbonates are formed after only 2-3 years. Another company, GeoSilica, makes beauty and health products from silica that would otherwise clog the power plant’s pipes. Pure North recycles agricultural plastics using warm water and hot air, originating from geothermal wells. Finally, Climeworks’ idea is direct capture of CO2 from the air using special fans and filter cassettes. Partners visited also Varmaorka at Flúðir, where modular heat plants from Climeon are used to generate electricity from water at temperatures below 100°C. Then followed two companies in the same area that use geothermal energy to grow mushrooms and to produce glue laminated structural beams, the latter based on wood imported from Norway.

The last day of the study visit started at HS Orka, Svartsengi plant. The tour was followed by a presentation on how the region’s two plants produce electricity and hot water. Then, the history of the Blue Lagoon was presented, from its humble start as clogged return water from the heat and power plant, to its present-day high-end spa identity.

The visit gave a varied insight into how Icelanders use their geothermal energy for a wide range of applications, including both traditional and more experimental uses. Even though some applications themselves may be Iceland-specific, the initiatives and innovative thinking will serve as an inspiration for the project team’s further work in their own countries.

Photos from study visit to Iceland can be found here.

Presentation from study visit to Iceland can be found be found here.

Study visit to Norway

The study visit to Norway took place from 23rd to 26th May 2022. Project partners met in Oslo to learn about how Norway, a country with low geothermal gradients, utilizes its resources. Geothermal heat pumps are among the fastest growing energy technologies worldwide. There are ca. 70 000 installations in Norway producing about 4.0 TWh of thermal energy annually.

Firstly, participants made technical visits to selected installations that use low-gradient geothermal resources. The first place visited was the primary school located in Drammen, which has an underground heat energy storage. The hosting persons emphasized how the school buildings’ design is crucial to make use of the warm water at temperatures as low as 40°C for floor heating.

The next site visit was to the Føyka football stadium in Asker, which explained how the two boreholes there were initially meant as demonstrators for a set of 13 boreholes for heating a planned building complex in the area. When this was not realized, the two boreholes were used to replace the propane fuelled heating of the football stadium. The energy wells are  800 m deep, a Norwegian record (onshore) when they were drilled. One hole is lined with a flexible hose, while the other is unlined, using a submerged pump. The heat is not sufficient to melt snow, but keeps the grass court soft during winter, preventing player injuries. The change from propane has greatly reduced the CO2 footprint of the system, even though propane is still used for very cold days.

The next stop was Wesselkvartalet. The building complex is built and owned by a family-owned company, and the project manager and co-owner Henrik Nore gave a tour of the geothermal system. The system consists of 24 deep boreholes of 250-300 m depth and 100 shallow boreholes of 30 m depth. Using these, heat is stored in three layers in the ground: in the top layer consisting of course gravel, in the medium layer consisting of artificially fractured bedrock, where the shallow boreholes are, and in the bottom layer consisting of solid bedrock disturbed only by the deep boreholes. The main task of the system is to melt snow and ice on the pavements in Asker, a task decreed by the local municipality. Excess heat is used for heating the flats and shops in the building complex.

The final site visit for the day was the commercial building Økern portal in Oslo. The main task of the geothermal system here is cooling of office space. This avoids the need for cooling towers on the roofs, meaning the roofs can rather be made into green spaces for recreational use. This significantly increases the attractiveness of the building complex.

On the third day, a conference was held at Epicenter center in Olso, during which Norway's experience in the field of using low-temperature geothermal energy was presented. Representatives of: NORCE, NVE (Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate), NOVAP (Norwegian Heat Pump Association), Fortum Oslo Varme, Rudenn Energy, Geothermal Energy Nordic, Muovitech presented their activities and achievements. The systems and solutions presented in Norway form a contrast to the systems presented on Iceland, since the water temperature in the ground in Norway is far below that on Iceland.

Photos from study visit to Norway can be found here.

Presentation from study visit to Norway can be found be found here.