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.
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.
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.