Tag Archives: Switzerland

Electricity from Hot Groundwater

A report from the Swiss TV teletext:


(I hope to transcribe and translate this soon. Sorry for you non-German readers.)

The main theme is that a local company has been formed to attempt to get Swiss government approval for a project in Lavey-le-Bains (Canton Vaud) to start drilling a well (or wells?) and operate the drilling procedure. The project is designed to recover hot water from underground for heat recovery (geothermal wells) for electrical generation. The design is to provide electricity for about 900 homes. The project is supposed to be unique in Switzerland. [ed: if it is successful, it will definitely be unique in Switzerland!]

Not Exactly Geothermal Energy

Switzerland is proposing to store radioactive wastes in deep artificial caverns. The location of these caverns is sill not decided, but many of the localities involved were not so happy about the situation. Each well should be 2000 meters (6’600 feet) deep. Now, there are only three potential locations remaining. For one of the wells in Aargau (north-central Switzerland), there were 419 complaints about the idea, 99% from individuals. Here is an interim report about the situation. Again, sorry that I have not had the time to translate these from the Swiss German. The source is the Swiss TV Teletext seervice.


Potential Sources of Geothermal Energy in the Swiss Rhine Valley

Studie ortetet Potenzial für Geothermie-Nutzung im Rheintal

(I hope to transcribe and translate this soon. Sorry for you non-German readers.

The general idea is that some locations were identified as being potentially good for geothermal production in the Rhine Valley in eastern Switzerland.)

New Geothermal Project in Canton Jura

Switzerland Tries Again for a successful geothermal project in the mountains of Canton Jura.

The idea of using geothermal energy in Switzerland was abandoned after projects led to earthquakes. Now canton Jura is planning a new geothermal project, one that should avoid past mistakes. http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/renewable-energy_geothermal-project-with-smaller-seismic-risk/41494690?moreComments=true#comment_559cfd89e4b0be33f6a53d97

As I commented on the SwissInfo article, one of the primary mistakes that the geothermal industry in general has made in Switzerland was to try to install the underground facilities – essentially hot water collector(s) and cooler water return to the same formation downstream – close to urban areas, where population and building densities are both relatively high.

My understanding of the project in Canton Jura is that (a) it will be very cautious in the drilling and fracturing procedures, and (b) the project will be out in the countryside where the damage – if any – should be negligable. Few buildings to crack, fewer people to frighten. These are advantages that many geothermal installations in other countries have made use of, some perhaps unknowingly.

We will see how far the project proceeds, both politically and technically. It is the first new Swiss project announced since the report from the Centre for Technology Assessment TA-SWISS, recommending that Switzerland proceed with geothermal technology in November last year.

There should be large sources of geothermal energy in the Swiss mountains, and these in areas where nothing will be damaged, even should there be artificial earthquakes of the mangitude seen to date in Basel and St. Gallen. I am sure that – if we are clever enough to tap it – there is more than enough thermal energy underneath Switzerland than is produced by today’s Swiss nuclear facilities. And the price and the hazard levels should be much more attractive.

Comments? We can’t see them if you don’t write them!

Strange Weather Pattern

Hi again,

This has nothing to do with geothermal energy, but it is a natural science situation that you might find interesting.

I use the accuweather.com website to see what is happening in terms of rain when I take my dogs outside about 5 times per day. They have a new (for me) device called the local weather (really it is precipitation) radar picture that you can focus in on your exact location to see what is coming in the next two hours. That means, I can tell (usually) whether there will be rain before we return or not, and if so, can we postpone a long walk to stay dry. It is quite helpful.

We have had rain off and on for the past three days now, and I noticed a structure in the precipitation picture that did not change with the moving weather. It is a rainless area in central Switzerland with a peculiar shape (probably why I noticed it – it looks like the profile of one of the Easter Island monoliths – remarkable timing, I guess!) that stays put, even though the rest of the weather formation is moving through the area (starting with NW –> SE and now NNW –> SSE). I wrote an email to the accuweather people, but I cannot send them pictures on their website message system, so I am uploading some screenshots here to show them what I am talking about.

Here are the screenshots:

Rain pattern Switzerland – 18:25, 04 April 2015
Rain pattern Switzerland – 19:40, 04 April 2015
Rain pattern Switzerland – 21:20, 04 April 2015
Rain pattern Switzerland – 22:35, 04 April 2015

As you can tell from the sequence, the rain was finishing when I started taking the pictures. The end of three days of rain, intermittant but probably 75-85% of the time.

Accuweather people! Can you shed any light on what was occurring here? I do not see any particular ground formations on a relief map that would favour such a stationary system. You can respond here, if you like.


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Switzerland Sees The Geothermal Light

As reported elsewhere here on Geothermal Energy Disadvantages (Plug Pulled on St Gallen Geothermal Power Project, Geothermal Energy Disadvantages), it has been difficult to achieve geothermal energy success in Switzerland in modern usages (forgetting warm springs and such that are decades old or even older). A new study, however writes that Switzerland should not give up its efforts to achieve some success.

The website www.swissinfo.ch has this to say about the recent report:

Despite recent seismic events related to drilling for geothermal power sources, a new study has concluded that Switzerland should continue to pursue geothermal energy as part of its future strategy.

The study from the Centre for Technology Assessment TA-SWISS argues that energy production from geothermal sources is … (read more)

mountain-streamOne of the most obvious solutions is to try to build a more substantial geothermal energy facility in a lightly populated area and let the earthquakes come. If the geothermal energy source is strong enough, production of electricity only should yield a profitable project, given the advances in low-level thermal conversion units today. These would not be competitive with units on the order of what Iceland can produce, but the objective for Switzerland is to provide power to a country that has more demand than its natural resources can produce (Switzerland does produce about 55% of the total power production as hydropower (the rest is primarily nuclear in three old power plants which will be shut down at some point and not replaced with nuclear energy). In addition, there are hardly any ecologically and economically acceptable sources of hydropower left untapped.

The need is there, the industry only has to figure out how to tap it.

Plug Pulled on St Gallen Geothermal Power Project

Switzerland: A highly touted geothermal project (electricity and district heating) in St. Gallen in the northeastern part of Switzerland has been terminated. SWI swissinfo.ch reports:

A plan in eastern Switzerland to supply geothermal electricity from underground heat has been axed. The city of St Gallen said there was not enough hot water to continue a project to build a power station using the renewable energy resource.   Read more …

From a realistic perspective, the project was a success – even thought it was an economic and political disappointment – in that it proved that the Molasse Basin hot water belt does not extend as far south as the Swiss border. Actually, there were a few boreholes sunk in southern Germany that also demonstrated the problem somewhat earlier. In those wells, the findings were that the formation that transported the hot water in the more northerly areas had been crushed to a certain extent in the southern regions, and the pores that allowed the water to flow in the north have been plugged further south by the small grains and dust of the crushings.

It was also a success in that the city managed an excellent public relations effort and sold a large percentage of the public on the project. In face of the technical failure of the project, one has to wonder if it will be possible to sell any such project in St. Gallen again in the next ten or fifteen years. On the other hand, it was an excellent example of how to sell such a project for other agencies in other locations in the future.

It is too bad that the project failed, since the geothermal types in Switzerland were really hoping for a positive result to enable them to replace at least some of the nuclear power that Switzerland says it one day will shut down.

Note: This is not really news, the project was terminated in May 2014, but we feel that a little separation from the emotions at the time have helped us make a more realistic report on the project.