Monday 24 January 2011

Opportunities to exploit geothermal energy begin to heat up

Opportunities to exploit geothermal energy begin to heat up

An Enterprise Connect Clean Energy Innovation Centre TechClinic has been held in Melbourne to explore options for use of Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) and other �Direct Use� geothermal energy technologies in order to promote greater utilisation of this renewable resource.

TechClinics promote the adoption of innovation and technology to solve industry wide problems and challenges. This particular TechClinic was held to progress key areas of discussion that emerged from a prior R&D Forum that examined the most promising technology options available to improve geothermal energy�s value to the market and increase its utilisation.

R&D Forums are held prior to TechClinics in order to identify market opportunities that might exist for those technologies, by bringing the R&D community together with industry representative in a single forum.

One of the key areas of discussion at the R&D Forum, held in Perth in August, was that of the GSHP and Direct Use variants of geothermal energy. These technologies utilise the ground heat available at relatively shallow depths, in a temperature range that lends itself to applications using heat energy directly, rather than for the generation of electricity.

The Clean Energy Innovation Centre (CEIC) Geothermal TechClinic was organised by the Australian Institute for Commercialisation (AIC) and its partners including Newcastle Innovation (NI) and the Western Australian Sustainable Energy Association (WA SEA), and focused on the question �What are the options available to the market and technology providers to improve ground source heat pump and direct use geothermal energy�s value and availability?�. The ultimate goal was to facilitate further adoption of this renewable energy technology�.

Key objectives were to:

  • Identify organisations capable and interested in assisting to achieve greater uptake of these geothermal technologies
  • Brainstorm potential solutions to meet the market needs of the projects
  • Create connections and collaborative opportunities for organisations within the value chain to participate (see figure 1)
  • Motivate project proponents toward commercial uptake of Australian SME capability
  • Motivate potential end user clients to access this form of renewable energy

The TechClinic was attended by participants from government, industry and the research sector including representatives from organisations such as:

  • Australian Geothermal Energy Association (AGEA)
  • Australian Geothermal Energy Group (AGEG)
  • Advanced Manufacturing CRC
  • Baw Baw Shire Council
  • Clean Energy Council
  • Clean Tech Ventures
  • Chadoak Plumbing
  • Silverbrook Drilling
  • Earth to Air Systems
  • DPI Victoria
  • Direct Energy
  • Rotary Heat Exchangers
  • DIIRD Victoria
  • VicUrban
  • GeoExchange Australia
  • Monash University

A range of case study presentations and industry and research insights were delivered by the University of Western Australia/CSIRO, WA Geothermal Centre of Excellence, ARUP, Meinhardt and the Centre for GeoExchange and Renewable Energy Infrastructure, The University of Melbourne with AGEG and the Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre.

Dr Rao Martand Singh of Monash University said "It is a fantastic event to bring industry, researchers and traders together. It was good to hear from drillers, plumbers and others about their concerns regarding skills and training" while Rob Becker of City of Greater Dandenong said that the TechClinic was a �well executed, informative workshop, attracting some key players in the geothermal industry".

A key focus of the TechClinic was on what needed to be done to increase the uptake of direct use systems for heating (and cooling) in the Australian market. Many of the challenges related to limited awareness, lack of Australian standards, and the absence of incentives, rather than technological barriers. For example, there are no renewable energy credits for geothermal direct heat use projects.

However, one of the greatest outcomes of the AIC TechClinic process is that it achieves cooperation along the value chain to overcome such obstacles, and this time proved no exception. Attendees from industry associations, universities, manufacturers, and governments volunteered to work jointly on agreed action items to help overcome these obstacles, and move the industry forwards. Collaboration is a sure way to innovate, and the seeds of a novel industry for Australia have been sown.

If you would like to find out more about Tech Clinics please visit or call (07) 3853 5225 or e-mail for further information. 

Figure 1: Ground source heat pump and direct use geothermal industry value chain map:



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