Near-surface Geothermal Resources in the Territory of the Alpine Space

European market overview

Recent environmental awareness in Europe and around the world encourage renewable energies development and local production of energy. Indeed, national governments use a wide range of public policies to support the development of geothermal energy in Europe, through investment support (such as the Interreg Alpine Space) and operating support (price subsidies, quota systems, etc.). At the present time, our current energy system is moving towards a Smart Cities and Smart Rural Communities model, where different technologies and renewable energy sources are integrated and combined, reducing environmental impact and offering citizens a better quality of life. 

Already as an established geothermal market, in 2015 Europe hosts:

  • 19,000 MW of installed capacity for Near-surface Geothermal Energy (2014)
  • 2,6 Million Tonnes of Oil Equivalent of renewable heat from NSGE, with an expected 44% growth by 2020
  • 1,4 Million installed ground source heat pumps
  • 41% of all European installed capacity for NSGE are hosted by the Alpine Space

(Source: GeoTrainet Shallow Geothermal Market Analysis, Issue n°3, Jan-April 2016)

Geothermal resources in the Alps

Mountainous and volcanic regions, such as the Alps, have very favourable geological conditions for geothermal energy. The Earth’s crust in these areas is fractured and underlain by magma chambers, so the water within the rock is heated to very high temperatures. Geothermal power plants are built in these areas, and developped technologies allow many different uses, especially in mountainous areas.

But even if geothermal projects in the central Alps are very rare because of the heterogeneity and complexity of geological structures which do not provide easily detectable and accessible large geothermal fields, the alpine foreland is hosting several large geothermal heat generation sites and electricity power plants.

Besides the Upper Rhine Valley and the North German Plain, the Molasse Basin, in the northern Alpine region, is one of the most important geothermal provinces in Germany, deep geothermal energy mining is very common. At the moment 11 deep geothermal power plants (over 400 meters depth) are functional in the Bavarian Molasse, with one producing electricity.

To know more about the geothermal potential of the Alpine space, see the map and the other project results.