Perth established as one of world's top five geothermal cities

Funding for a major Australian geothermal project and establishing Perth as one of the world’s top five 'geothermal cities' were celebrated as some of the major achievements of the Western Australian Geothermal Centre of Excellence (WAGCOE), at its successful conclusion today.

  • 19 February 2013 | Updated 21 February 2013

Established in 2009 with funding support of A$2.3 million from the Government of Western Australia, WAGCOE brought researchers, industry, investors and government agencies together with the shared vision of creating zero-emission geothermal cities.

Representatives from the partner organisations of The University of Western Australia, CSIRO and Curtin University, as well as state government agencies and industry groups gathered at the Australian Resources Research Centre (ARRC) in south Perth today to reflect on WAGCOE's achievements.

"At WAGCOE we provided a world-class research and training environment where scientists developed local solutions to revolutionise energy development in Western Australia and contribute to the goal of powering zero-emission geothermal cities."

Professor Klaus Regenauer-Lieb, WAGCOE Director

WAGCOE Director Professor Klaus Regenauer-Lieb said the centre had strived to underpin a new era of energy development by developing local solutions.

"When we consider the challenges of climate change and the need to develop reliable sources of renewable energy, the work of WAGCOE is less about the last four years, than the next 50 years," Professor Regenauer-Lieb said.

"At WAGCOE we provided a world-class research and training environment where scientists developed local solutions to revolutionise energy development in Western Australia and contribute to the goal of powering zero-emission geothermal cities."

Internationally, the work of WAGCOE led to the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) identifying Perth as one of the top ten (number five) "Geothermal Cities" of the world. Unlike other entries to the list, however, Perth's inclusion was unique as it was earned on the merit of plans to become the world's first geothermally-cooled city.

Among WAGCOE's other major achievements was the development of a 3-D computer model illustrating a comprehensive geological assessment of the entire Perth Basin, which will act as a template for future geothermal developments in the region.

The centre was also instrumental in securing A$20 million of Australian Government funding for the CSIRO Geothermal Project, which aims to prove the viability of using geothermal energy on a large-scale.

For further information about geothermal research and activities post-WAGCOE, please contact Professor Klaus Regenauer-Lieb on +61 8 6436 8693, or Klaus.Regenauer-Lieb@csiro.au

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Professor Klaus Regenauer-Lieb - WAGCOE and the vision of 'geothermal cities'
Professor Klaus Regenauer-Lieb talks about WAGCOE and the vision of 'geothermal cities'.

Transcript

Considering the challenge of climate change, the work that we are doing here in the Western Australian Geothermal Centre of Excellence, in short WAGCOE, is less about the last four years of research that we have been doing, but about the coming future, the next 50 years.

We have developed a concept called geothermal cities. Now, what is a geothermal city? A geothermal city consists of a city that is entirely driven by the heat beneath your feet.

How does it work? You start with an electric power plant. There you can actually turn heat from 125 degrees nowadays into electricity, so you only need to drill, say, 3 kilometres down and get hot water up and drive an electric power station.

The next step would be then use the waste heat from that power station- which normally goes up into the atmosphere and wastes water in cooling towers- you don't do this, but you use it for other machines that can be used for, for instance cooling. So, at say 80 degrees you can still use that heat to run what is called an adsorption, or absorption chiller that turns heat energy into cool energy, so you can use it for district cooling.

The next step would be, well, we need to drink. At 65 degrees we can still use the heat to run a distillation process, under partial vacuum, and then win fresh water from dirty water, or basically salt water from the sea.

After that at 40, 50 degrees you can still use the heat for your fun, for swimming pool heating, or for aquaculture so you can actually make big ponds and raise fish, farming, greenhouses need heat, they need an air conditioning system to run the plants properly.

So you can have a complete system engineering design where the city is entirely driven by heat. So that's a geothermal city.

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