Canary Islands It does not have reliable surveys on its geothermal potential. The only studies carried out were done in the 80s and 90s on the islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife but less than 1,000 meters deep. In order to collect useful data between 1,000 and 2,000 meters, the councils from Gran Canaria, Tenerife and The Palm have come together to participate in a call for aid from the Institute for the Diversification and Saving of Energy (IDAE), entity dependent on the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge. If the projects of the three councils are chosen, each of the Islands will receive 15 million euros.
In addition to requesting financing to the state government, Gran Canaria, Tenerife and La Palma They have asked the regional Executive for the necessary permits to carry out surveys in search of geothermal energy. These two actions, those of requesting financing and permits, are carried out in parallel to try to find out if the Archipelago has sufficient resources to invest in geothermal energy, something that until now is unknown. “We cannot put on the bear’s skin before hunting it,” the scientific director of the Institute of Technology and Renewable Energy (ITER), Nemesio Pérez, warned at a press conference this Monday.
Geothermal energy is “energy stored in the form of heat beneath the surface of the solid earth.” Geothermal resources are found at various depths (from hundreds of meters to several kilometers) and can be used to generate both thermal and electrical energy depending on their temperature. Deep or high temperature geothermal energywhat is the What It is believed that the Islands may have been volcanically active.is associated with thermal anomalies of the Earth’s crust where the geothermal gradient, instead of being normal (30 degrees Celsius for each kilometer) is much higher (up to 200 degrees Celsius for each kilometer).
The only underground surveys were carried out in Tenerife and Gran Canaria in the 80s and 90s
Since investing economic resources in surveys is “a risk” due to its high cost – up to 180 million euros of estimated expenditure in the Canary Islands – and the uncertainty surrounding its viability, institutions have launched a search for private financing, forming consortiums. on each Island. This is how the Minister of Innovation, Research and Development of the Tenerife Council, Juan José Martínez; the Minister of Economic Development, Energy and R&D&i of the Cabildo of Gran Canaria; Raúl García and the Minister of Finance, Human Resources, Commerce, Training, Employment, Industry and Energy of the La Palma Town CouncilFernando González.
For the scientific director of ITER, although the commitment to geothermal energy is expensive, “it will be worth it” if the expected energy is found. And this way of supplying is “stable, because it is available 24 hours a day, and flexible.” Unlike wind and solar energy, energy that is extracted from the heat of the earth “does not vary even if it is cloudy or there is no wind.” Geothermal energy, according to Pérez, is also the energy with “smaller environmental footprint” and consumes “less territory”, something to be valued in the case of the Canary Islands.
The scientific director of ITER encourages surveys to begin as soon as possible although he rejects setting a date for the opening of geothermal plants in the Canary Islands. However, he believes that if research concludes that it is possible to develop this energy before 2026, the first facilities can be put into operation in 2030.
To investigate the possibilities that the Canary Islands have to benefit from geothermal energy, ITER has set its sights on the volcanic archipelago of the Azores. Specifically, the Portuguese island of San Miguel is supplied with 40% geothermal energy. Of course, this Island barely has a population of 150,000 people, so Pérez rules out that Tenerife or Gran Canaria, which have a larger population and a great electricity demand, could be supplied in a high percentage with the energy extracted from the heat of the ground. . However, the scientist considers that achieving a low percentage of supply “would serve to steal that amount from polluting energies”, so it would be equally “beneficial”.
On La Palma, geothermal energy could allow the use of renewables to go from 2.5% to 15%
An island that could be compared to San Miguel is La Palma, which in 2022 had a population of 83,439 inhabitants (according to data from the National Institute of Statistics). The Minister of Energy of La Palma, Fernando González, has trusted that geothermal energy, if it comes into operation on the Island, “will multiply the use of renewables by six, going from the current 2.5% to 15%.” In the beautiful island An important part of the electricity consumption – 20% – is carried out by the companies in charge of agricultural irrigation, which is why entities in this sector participate in the call for aid together with the Cabildo.
Regarding the geothermal potential of La Palma, González explained that, with the help of ITER, studies were carried out in 2001 in different areas and the conclusion was reached that “there is potential for this resource to exist.” If this type of renewable energy has not continued to be explored until now, it has been precisely because it was impossible for the Island to assume “its high cost.” Apart from the aid of 15 million euros from the Ministry of Ecological Transition, the Cabildo of La Palma competes with other geothermal projects for subsidies worth 60 million with which it seeks to explore in Mazo and Fuencaliente.
In the case of Tenerife, the island’s Energy Minister, Juan José Martínez, has detailed that the Island has presented projects for almost 100 million euros in the west, south and southeast with the help of ITER, Involcan and DISA.
Electricity from ground heat
What is geothermal?
Geothermal energy is the energy that is produced through the heat that exists beneath the solid earth, at depths greater than 1,000 meters. In the Canary Islands, due to its volcanic nature, it is believed that there is a high-temperature geothermal energy (greater than 200 degrees Celsius for every kilometer of depth).
Is there geothermal energy in the Canary Islands?
The studies carried out so far – mainly two surveys and various ITER investigations – do not allow us to conclude that geothermal energy can be used in the Archipelago, although they have given “solid clues” according to expert Nemesio Pérez. For this reason, Gran Canaria, La Palma and Tenerife want to launch the first reliable surveys from 1,000 meters deep.
How much does it cost to do an underground survey?
Searching for heat underground can cost the Canary Islands up to 180 million euros, according to Pérez. It is for this reason that, in addition to applying for different aid, the Islands interested in developing this renewable energy have created consortia to promote public-private collaboration that allows them to face the high costs.
What areas could be probed?
In Gran Canaria, the Cabildo is studying conducting surveys in search of geothermal energy in areas such as Valsequillo, Ingenio or Agüimes. In Tenerife, exact points have not been detailed although it is indicated to the west, south and southeast. In La Palma, the Cabildo wants to focus on the municipalities of Mazo and Fuencaliente.
In what year is the plant opening estimated?
Although Nemesio Pérez asks for caution when proposing future scenarios since it is not yet known exactly whether it is viable to promote geothermal energy in the Canary Islands, it is estimated that in 2030 the first plants of this type could be in operation in the Canary Islands. Of course, before that happens, the results of the first surveys would have to come out, which will be available in 2026 at the earliest.