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Geothermal Country Overview: Potential in Greece

It’s famously known as the home of Alexander the Great and Greek yogurt. But did you know it has loads of geothermal potential too?

Geological conditions in Greece have generally contributed to the creation of a significant number of geothermal fields with high geothermal energy potential. More than 55 geothermal fields have been identified. The geothermal fields in Greece are quite scattered due to geological characteristics. The distribution density differs due to different geological conditions in each region. In at least 50 geothermal fields the fluids’ temperatures range from 25 to 90 °C, mainly in depths <500m, their potential has been estimated to be 1,000 MWth.

Even though research began over 40 years ago, and a significant number of geothermal fields were identified, utilization is rather limited, as it is exploited solely through direct uses. Direct geothermal use includes thermal spas, greenhouses, soil heating, fish farming, aquaculture, crop drying and GSHPs (Ground Source Heat Pumps). The total installed capacity of geothermal applications in mid-2016 was 232 MWth, with GSHPs accounting for 64%, thermal spas for 18% and greenhouse heating for 14.5% of this capacity. During the last years, the Greek geothermal market has grown mainly due to the increase of GSHP system installations.

There is a total absence of power production through geothermal energy. This is due largely in part by the opposition created from the unfortunate experiences of the Milos Island pilot power plant (1970–80s). Deficiencies and errors made during construction and operation resulted in environmental pollution which was met with strong reactions by locals. The attitude of local communities and authorities remains unchanged against the large-scale exploitation of high temperature, deep geothermal resources (any use of geothermal energy with heat extraction, for resources with temperatures above 90 °C). In contrast, low temperature deep geothermal (any use of geothermal energy with heat extraction, for resources with temperatures between 25 and 90 °C) utilization is perceived much more positively. Recent attempts to promote the exploitation of geothermal fields have been futile because there is a gap of local societies’ awareness, involvement, and engagement, a fact that contributes to public reactions towards geothermal development, especially concerning high-temperature fields. Exploiting the large potential of geothermal energy requires an increase of awareness and improvement of the lost confidence of local societies towards high temperature deep geothermal exploitation.

In addition to the attitudes of locals against power productions, the main reasons for the delay of geothermal resources in Greece include lack of an adequate regulatory framework and bureaucratic barriers, lack of financial capital, investment incentives, infrastructure, and strategic planning for rational exploitation of geothermal energy. A new piece of legislation made available to citizens incorporated their commentary and a modernized approach on the framework for research and geothermal exploitation. Rules put in place to bring about a climate of confidence included:

  • Simplifying the categorization of geothermal fields – distinguishing geothermal fields at local (fluid temperature 30-90 ° C) and national interest (fluid temperature above 90 °C).
  • Increase the minimum geothermal potential setting temperature from 25 °C to 30 °C to permit exploitation of agricultural boreholes for irrigation purposes.
  • Contributing benefits from rents are introduced for the local communities in which geothermal energy is developed.
  • A National Register of Points of Exploitation of Geothermal, a web portal at the Ministry of Environment and Energy, and a National Register for Geothermal Signs and Monitoring (IGME).
  • Troubleshooting committees – responsible for safe exploitation and use of the renewable source.

In 2014, the primary production of renewable energy in Greece was 2.4 million toe (tonnes of energy); the proportion of produced renewable energy increased by 48% between 2004 and 2014. Renewable sources accounted for 10% of Greece’s gross inland energy consumption in 2014 (biomass and renewable wastes, 5%; solar, 2.1%; hydropower, 1.6%; wind 1.3%). The most important renewable energy source (RES) was biomass and waste. Geothermal energy (0.5%) accounted for a very small portion of primary renewable production. The share of renewables in gross final energy consumption was 15.3% for Greece in 2014, with the country’s 2020 target being set at 18% (heating & cooling target set at 20%, electricity at 40% and transport at 10%).

Photo: View on the forum and the basilica B with Pangaion Hills in the background, Philippi  (Source Link: https://bit.ly/2L0JXmj)

Design and installation were proposed by PPC Renewables for a 5MW power plant in a remote location. A zero-pollution technology is planned to be introduced that will ensure uninterrupted electrification on the island of Nisyros to solve drinking water problems through desalination and apply district heating of homes and greenhouses. A closed-loop system is proposed where the geothermal fluid will be reintroduced into the subsoil – thus guaranteeing zero gas emissions. Scientific research has been conducted by universities such as the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens to investigate if exploitation will pose risks based on the geological features of Nisyros. The studies confirmed that no risks are involved from the research, installation, and operation of a geothermal power plant in Nisyros. The exploitation of the Nisyros geothermal field has confirmed that exploitation will not bring about physicochemical imbalances such as to cause any volcanic reactivation. The EKPA adds that the exploitation of the geothermal field has no negative impact and impact on the above processes and, to a certain extent contributes to the depletion of volcanic energy.

With the aim of future penetration into energy diversification and social acceptance, actions from state and companies (developers) must be taken to increase awareness of geothermal development, policy promotion and regulations which will guarantee avoidance of negative environmental and health impacts which can foster a more accepting attitude from locals and regain lost confidence in high-temperature geothermal exploration. Additionally, with the great advancement of geothermal technology over the past few decades, the probability of encountering problems faced in the past are significantly reduced.

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Sources:

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-78286-7_9

https://www.worldenergy.org/data/resources/country/greece/geothermal/

http://www.thinkgeoenergy.com/geothermal-energy-in-greece-an-overview-by-dr-apostolos-arvanitis/

http://www.thinkgeoenergy.com/government-of-greece-positive-on-geothermal-energy-in-response-to-local-concerns/

http://www.opengov.gr/minenv/?p=9454

Author: Elizabeth Bullock