New project aims to find out if Northern Ireland can go geothermal

26 Jun 2023

Conor Lydon, Tetra Tech Europe; Marie Cowan; and Mike Brennan. Image: Morrow Communications

The director of the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland said that the region has ‘favourable geology’ with ‘untapped potential for geothermal energy.’

Organisations based in Northern Ireland are teaming up on a project that aims to explore the potential for geothermal energy in the region. The project has an interactive twist in that it includes provisions designed to increase public understanding of the environmental benefits of geothermal energy.

The GeoEnergy NI project is being funded by Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy to the tune of £3m. It will receive scientific support from the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (GSNI) team and a specialist contractor team led by engineering and consultancy business Tetra Tech Europe.

These teams will conduct enquiries regarding shallow and deep geothermal energy at two different locations. The first is the Stormont Estate in Belfast and the second is the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise, Greenmount Campus, Co Antrim.

According to Marie Cowan, director of GSNI, the potential for geothermal energy in Northern Ireland is significant and needs to be looked into, especially for sustainability reasons. “Geothermal is regarded as one of the most environmentally friendly ways of producing local, sustainable and low-carbon energy and is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, whatever the weather.”

She pointed out that “Geothermal energy is already used widely and successfully in many countries around the world including the Netherlands, Germany and France, and there are several significant geothermal projects currently being delivered elsewhere in the UK.”

The government in Northern Ireland is hoping that the project will help it achieve its targets of net zero carbon by 2050. “This project will increase our understanding of the potential role that geothermal energy can play in Northern Ireland’s green economy and future energy mix,” said Mike Brennan, secretary of the Department for the Economy.

Cowan said that GeoEnergy NI will provide stakeholders with “invaluable data” to help them realise geothermal’s potential, adding that “Northern Ireland is very fortunate to have favourable geology with significant untapped potential for geothermal energy right beneath our feet.”

“An additional benefit of the GeoEnergy NI project is its public and stakeholder outreach campaign,” she added. The project unveiled a new website today (26 June) along with a VR headset and educational resources.

The consortium is planning to open a mobile visitor centre to “further enhance the public’s awareness and understanding of geothermal and the economic potential Northern Ireland’s geothermal sector holds,” Cowan concluded.

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Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.