New centre makes geothermal cities a hot prospect

A new Perth-based research centre dedicated to developing technologies designed to help establish sustainable, low-emission, geothermal cities, was opened in December.

The Western Australian Geothermal Centre of Excellence (WAGCOE) is a joint venture between CSIRO and the University of Western Australia, in conjunction with Curtin University of Technology, and supported by the WA State Government.

The centre brings together researchers, industry, investors and government agencies to investigate how geothermal energy can be used to provide modern cities with air conditioning, power and desalinated water.

The centre was opened by Western Australian Minister for Mines and Petroleum, the Hon Norman Moore.

Centre director, UWA Professor and Premier’s Fellow, Klaus Regenauer-Lieb said Perth is an ideal geological setting for demonstrating and providing local geothermal energy.

“The shallow groundwater of the Perth Basin is an excellent source of low-grade heat which can be used for direct-use applications that people use every day,” Professor Regenauer-Lieb said.

“By exploring for and using low-grade heat in a permeable sedimentary environment, we are addressing a previously overlooked opportunity to broaden the applications and use of geothermal energy.

“Our aim is to make Perth the first geothermally cooled city in the coming decade and we are working closely with geothermal lease holders, city planners and other stakeholders to advance the geothermal industry and make this vision a reality.”

The centre links ‘below-ground’ research with ‘above-ground’ development, by modelling low-to-intermediate temperature geothermal systems and delivering novel technologies for low-grade heat. Modelling is also being used to identify deeper and hotter geothermal sources including hot sedimentary aquifers and ‘hot rocks’.

The centre will also develop geothermal energy university courses and provide advice and consulting services to industry.

Minister Moore said harnessing geothermal energy in Perth, and the state as a whole, was an exciting prospect.

“The work of the Western Australian Geothermal Centre of Excellence will be instrumental in making geothermal power part of Western Australia’s energy sector,” he said.

“This centre is another great example of how the funding from the State Government’s Centres of Excellence program can be used to create an institution that will benefit all of Western Australia.

“I am sure in the coming years we will see some very exciting developments and research emerging from the centre.”