Green Energy Debacle: Multi-Million-Euro Geothermal Power Plant Shuts Down After 8 Years Of Endless Troubles

Like so many (highly subsidized) green energy projects in Germany the Kalina geothermal power plant in Unterhaching, Germany, was put into operation with great fanfare some 8 years ago in 2009.

Look at all the great things we’re doing, high ranking politicians seemed to say as the cut the opening ribbon.

Today the online Merkur.de reports that the “prestige project of Germany” has been out of operation since summer, and so “possibly forever“. According to the Merkur, the plant has produced as much trouble as it has energy. Efforts to rescue the project have failed.

To produce power at the low temperature range between 90 and 200 °C, a complex and special power plant process is used. In Unterhaching, just south of Munich, the first Kalina geothermal power plant technology was used. Recently it was reported that the project may be be permanently shut down due to costs and technical problems. Chart: www.geothermie-unterhaching.de

According to the company’s promotional video here, the plant was designed to produce 3.4 megawatts of electric power and 38 megawatts of district heating “for thousands of households“…”emissions-free, sustainable and renewable“.

Unterhaching geothermal plant: Image cropped here.

The partner for the district heating part of the Unterhaching plant, the community of Grünwald, has invested in cooperation with Unterhaching already 23.5 million euros over the past five years. Credits were also given by Grünwald and Unterhaching in an attempt to save the project from insolvency, but the geothermal plant has since turned into “a bottomless pit” and members of the town councils spoke of “an immense burden” and a “failed project” due to the losses from the electricity generation part of the plant.

According to the Merkur, the technical problems are not related to the Kalina technology itself, but rather due to material used for the heat exchangers of the power plant.

As soon as the plant was switched on for the first time just after its opening by then German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel, it began to stink like ammonia just a half hour later. At the time the heat exchanger leaked and rubber seals did not help. It had to be welded. Other technical problems plagued the plant.

The Merkur points out that the district heating part of the plant, which is the main part, “functions excellently“, adding: “More than 50% of the households in the community were provided with a hook-up to the geothermal plant in 2015.”

Yet, for the tens of millions of euros invested, that may be a very tiny consolation. Alternative energy seems to be burning cash rather than generating power.

 

7 responses to “Green Energy Debacle: Multi-Million-Euro Geothermal Power Plant Shuts Down After 8 Years Of Endless Troubles”

  1. yonason

    Fascinating.

    They keep trying to do that, despite having known it can result in problems since before they did it?
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/11/science/earth/11quake.html

    Oh, wait. They know solar and wind are nearly always useless, expensive and harmfull waste, but that doesn’t stop those. Nevermind.

  2. John F. Hultquist

    The City of Boise, Idaho, has used geothermal heating for years.
    https://publicworks.cityofboise.org/services/geothermal/

    Historic use from 1890. Current system established in 1983.

    I think the difference is the deep drilling in Germany and the extraction of the heat from that level to generate electricity. More complex. Just a guess.

    Here is a link to a geology/geophysics report from 1983.
    http://geology.isu.edu/Geothermal/References/GRC/Wood_and_Burnham_1983_GRC_Trans.pdf

    There are other places in the world, also, where geothermal has been studied and used.
    Hope the heating part continues – winter is supposed to be cold.

  3. Bitter&twisted

    Actually it can be viewed as a major success.
    It has served its primary purposes perfectly by;
    1) Providing photo-opportunities for virtue-signalling politicians.
    2) Providing its backers with loads of money, via subsidy.

    What’s not to like?

  4. Alfred (Melbourne)

    Much of Paris is heated from a source 1-2km underground. It is called heat-mining – as eventually it will run out.

    When I lived in Paris, my apartment had central heating that was supplied with hot water from this source. The utility bill depended on the volume of water that was used. Very practical in some circumstances.

    I suspect that this German project was over-ambitious. They did not understand the limitations of low grade heat.

  5. Willem Post

    Alfred,

    Low grade heat requires high efficiency buildings that can be heated with 120 F water.

  6. tom0mason

    Doing a quick web search for ‘geothermal failures’ reveal many, many reports of failures world wide.
    Also among the result was this document outlining the major difficulties ‘Geothermal Well Design, Construction and Failures’ at https://www.geothermal-energy.org/pdf/IGAstandard/WGC/2005/1017.pdf .

  7. tom0mason

    No notification of my comment post — straight to spam again?

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