AS MUCH as 15 per cent of Dublin's hot water and heating could be provided by geothermal energy within the next five to seven years.
Early results of testing at Newcastle in southwest Dublin showed 10,000 homes in that area could benefit from a geothermal system extracting heat from 4,000m to 5,000m below ground.
Until now mainly shallow geothermal energy, available at depths of up to 150m, has been used in Ireland. This has been successful for one-off houses and single developments.
Speaking at the Geothermal Association of Ireland's annual conference in Kilkenny yesterday, geothermal contractor Pádraig Hanley said the Newcastle tests were exceeding expectations and indications were that similar systems across Dublin could be providing up to 15 per cent of the city's requirement for hot water and heat in five to seven years.
Hopes were also high that the energy may also be used to generate electricity.
The method of securing geothermal energy involves hot water being pumped to the earth's surface and circulated through a district heating system to each home or business within the locality. The water is then returned to the ground through another bore hole.
Mr Hanley said the final phase of test results from the Newcastle experiment would not be available until the end of this month. However, he said when available theywould "not only provide definitive information on the scale of the geothermal resource at Newcastle" but also enable estimates of the geothermal potential of the entire Dublin area.
Mr Hanley called on the Government "to expedite the legislation that is urgently needed to enable us to proceed to the next stage and the development of a geothermal plant. The sooner the legislation is in place, the sooner we can begin to roll out this cheaper, constant renewable source of energy to consumers".
News of the testing was welcomed by Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan, who said the Government would "iron out" any difficulties in the way of renewable energy. He said geothermal energy "offers huge potential for Ireland to minimise our massive fossil fuel bill, where we unnecessarily send money abroad for energy we should be developing at home".
The Irish Times