The First Plant in the World to Use Geothermal Energy to Grow the “Superfood” Spirulina

Published on Monday, 16 October 2017

“The alga is a so-called “superfood”. It’s used as a natural nutritional and energy supplement because of richness in protein and its antibiotic and antiviral properties.”

The initiative comes from an agreement signed in January 2017 between Enel Green Power and Co.Svi.G. aimed at experimentation on geothermal resources applied to the cultivation of algae: the two sides allocated 100,000 euro each to build the pilot system at Chiusdino, a small greenhouse where spirulina is grown using both geothermal heat and carbon-free CO2, produced by the process of geothermal production and a substitute of natural emissions, useful in promoting algae cultivation.

“The Department of Agro-food Sciences and the Environment at the University of Florence and the Italian National Research Council (CNR) are carrying out the experiments alongside EGP and Co.Svi.G.”

The Tuscan university department, through a start-up at the University Incubator of Sesto Fiorentino will take on the development of the inocula and the training of staff for the plant. CNR will take care of the monitoring and characterisation of the crops.

The project aims to demonstrate the possibility of developing cultures with high commercial value, adjacent to geothermal plants, increasing the economic and employment benefits linked to geothermal power.

The Chiusdino geothermal plant, inaugurated in 2011, has an installed capacity of 20 MW, produces roughly 150 million kWh a year, avoiding the emission of 100,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere and saves 32,000 TOE (tonnes of oil equivalent) of fossil fuels a year. The plant, which fits perfectly in its environmental context because of its location, architecture and colours, is a technological wonder for Tuscan renewables.

The launch of the pilot system was part of the larger Enel Green Power initiative, “Open Plants”. On 13 October, the Chiusdino geothermal plant welcomed local schools, townspeople and tourists for guided tours and entertainment.

In the morning, students could visit the power plant, taking part in workshops and enjoying entertainment for the occasion. At 12:00, the launch of the pilot system was held, with a “geothermal menu” with local products organised by the Renewable Energy Food Community, founded by Co.Svi.G. and the Slow Food Foundation for biodiversity. In the afternoon, starting from 2:00pm, the doors opened to the public, with guided tours given by Enel Green Power staff, entertainment, pony rides and a concert of the Chiusdino Youth Philharmonic Group.