A public research institute in New Zealand announced on Tuesday that it will receive NZD$2.6 million ($1.96 million) to explore low-temperature geothermal energy as part of a new program designed to take advantage of the country’s abundant, near-surface sources of heat.
GNS Science will use the three-year grant to develop technologies for locating and tapping low-temperature heat sources. The government researchers will also look at energy and tax policies for promoting geothermal energy.
Low-temperature geothermal energy is “capable of providing long-term energy and heat supply with low carbon emissions,” said project leader Brian Carey in a statement.
Low-temperature geothermal refers to underground steam and water at below 150 degrees Celsius (302 degrees Fahrenheit). Energy could be generated from sources as low as 80 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Fahrenheit).
Conventional geothermal energy comes from steam at a temperature as high as 700 degrees Fahrenheit. The steam piped to power plants at The Geysers, the world’s largest geothermal field located in Northern California, has a temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
The geothermal industry has been around for decades. But the global push for developing cleaner energy has spurred a greater interest from governments and the private sector.
Earlier this month, geothermal equipment maker SPX, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, said it signed a $100 million deal to supply an Icelandic utility company with equipment for five power plants (see SPX Makes $100M Geothermal Deal).
AltaRock Energy, a startup, has raised a reported $4 million from investors that included Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers and Khosla Ventures (see AltaRock Breaks New Ground with Geothermal Power). AltaRock, based in Seattle, is developing ways to drill deep into the earth, fracture the hot rocks and create steam wells in places that were previously inaccessible because of its terrain or other issues.
For the New Zealand project. The GNS scientists are receiving assistance from researchers at the University of Aucklnd and Coal Research Ltd., a coal lab funded by the Coal Research Association of New Zealand and the public Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.
The research program is the first geothermal exploration for GNS, which already has a program to help landowners and companies develop high-temperature geothermal energy in central North Island.
The government also recently set aside NZD$4 million ($3.02 million) for investigating geothermal resources deep underground, up to 5 kilometers (3.11 miles). The wells for piping the steam at The Geysers are roughly two miles deep.