The Geothermal Communities (GEOCOM) project was launched in 2010 with a vision to increase the visibility of direct heat applications of geothermal energy throughout Europe, where most attention has been paid to power generation alternatives of the same source recently. This 11 million Euro project, funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7), demonstrates a wide array of research and demonstration components to provide not only firsthand experience for the communities involved in the project, but also to feed the international scientific community with valuable results related to the currently pressing geothermal matters such as reinjection into sandstone reservoirs and trans-boundary utilisation of geothermal aquifers.
Demonstration actions, including geothermal district heating system development, integration of geothermal heating with other renewable energy sources (RES) and energy efficiency measures such as complementary retrofitting actions on selected buildings, are implemented at three demonstration sites in Hungary, Italy and Slovakia. This broad geographical coverage enables us to implement different technologies which suit the local needs the best and at the same time increases the replication potential of the project’s actions.
The innovative elements range from complete utilisation of the inherent natural gas content of the thermal water (520l/m3 @85% CH4) via CHP engines in Hungary through upgrading and extending a 30-year-old geothermal district heating system to modern standards in Slovakia to building a brand new geothermal loop to supply the citizens of the medieval village of Montieri in the heart of the Larderello area in Italy.
Additional municipalities from Poland, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia with geothermal energy potential participate in GEOCOM as observer communities and are keeping a close eye on the project’s progress and getting prepared to initiate their own geothermal programs based on GEOCOM’s results. This aspect helps to spread direct geothermal applications further and into countries and regions with traditional geothermal features (e.g. hot springs) but lacking the knowledge to exploit them for their own benefits.
All the demonstration actions of the project are supported by socio-economic research, which runs in parallel with them in order to monitor the public acceptance of such interventions and the public opinion in general about geothermal energy. Without fully understanding the key driving factors at communities with such potential, the results cannot be hoped to spread and become popular. Also a full scale monitoring campaign has been introduced (with staggering results) in order to gather data on the delivered technical components, thus ensuring the availability of tangible data on the operation and savings achieved. Later on, such data can support decision makers who are willing to engage such ventures to make solid and justified decisions for the good of their community.