A record year for EGP geothermal

Published on Thursday, 12 January 2017

For the fourth straight year, energy production in Italy reached stellar figures: 5871 GWh compared to 5820 GWh in 2015. We spoke about it with Massimo Montemaggi.

Enel Green Power-branded geothermal energy continues to record staggering numbers. The past year was yet another year of great achievements and satisfactions, starting with energy production, which, in Italy, again reached stellar numbers: 5871 GWh compared to 5820 GWh in 2015, a historical accomplishment to shatter the record of the previous four years. "The credit goes to the whole geothermal team at EGP (O&M, Engineering, CoE, Drilling), who have worked with skill, teamwork and dedication", Massimo Montemaggi, Head of Geothermal at Enel Green Power, told us for this interview. "In 2016, they managed to improve plant performance again (confirming a higher 98.2% availability, an unthinkable number for a process as complex as geothermal until to a few years ago), to better manage the resource available, countering decline in the fields, also to operate the Cornia 2 mixed geothermal-biomass plant at peak efficiency and availability".

So, another year to remember for Enel Green Power geothermal...

The 2016 record is significant worldwide, with a never before seen production value. We're talking about figures that, together with EGP's geothermal production in the United States, rank second worldwide. As far as know-how is concerned, I believe that we have long been a worldwide leader, also in terms of plant availability. We are very proud of the management of the geothermal fields, a feature that has contributed significantly to this energy production record.

In what way?

When we talk about geothermal fields, the exact term to use is not "exploitation" but "cultivation" of the geothermal resource. This activity takes place through the achievement of a key balance between what can be extracted from the geothermal fields and what nature makes available: if the resource is overexploited, a decline in the fields inevitably happens, but if it's underused, it's not optimised. So we must find the right balance between these aspects.

In 2016, too, Tuscan geothermal gained a following around the world. What can we expect in the new year?

In Tuscany and throughout the Amiata area, several development projects are already set up, while, from a technological point of view, we are getting ready to tackle an important research and innovation challenge between May and June this year.

What is the challenge?

It's a new shaft able to explore at greater depths than the reservoirs currently in cultivation. So we are going to look for the so-called supercritical fluids at very high temperatures, in the real heart of the Earth. This is a research project still in the evaluation phases, but could be a real breakthrough.

Tuscan geothermal is a leader also in terms of innovation. In July 2016, for example, the "Cornia 2" plant was opened in the town of Castelnuovo Val di Cecina – the first in the world to integrate geothermal energy and biomass.

That was one of the highlights of the past year and no doubt contributed greatly to the achievement of this great production result. It also proved that geothermal energy matches perfectly with other renewable technologies, as is the case in the United States, at the Stillwater and Cove Fort plants.