Scotland's first geothermal company aims to bring the country closer to its 2020 target of generating 11 percent of the country's heat from renewables while reducing carbon emissions and fuel poverty in poor communities.
"Scotland has ambitious targets to meet on renewable heat, but our progress towards them to date has not been impressive, at just three percent," said Stephanie Clark, policy manager at Scottish Renewables, the representative body of the Scottish renewable energy industry.
“Scotland has largely untapped geothermal resources, and we welcome any developments which could see this green energy source harnessed to heat homes and businesses across the country," Clark added.
Town Rock Energy, a father and son company, aim to develop aquifer and mine-water geothermal resources by extracting the heat energy within underground waters to supply heat to communities in need.
"We shall begin by developing geothermal district heating projects that reduce fuel poverty in poor communities, as this has a strong political drive and wider benefits to rural communities such as job creation and economic development," David Townsend, the company's founder and managing director, explained to The Anadolu Agency through e-mail on Wednesday.
The company aims to perform feasibility studies for a number of projects over the next nine months to assure that some of the projects will lead to full-scale deployment, "which will hopefully be fully operational within 3 years or less," Townsend said.
There are currently two existing systems in Scotland operating on a non-profit basis that take water from a mine and extract heat from it for a community in need but both involve less than 20 houses each.
"A key goal is to demonstrate that a project can be developed purely by the private sector, which would be a ‘world’s first’ for geothermal district heating from mine-water," he argued.
Townsend hopes to take the idea to the next level and prove that the district heating project is "economically viable on a large scale in private as well as public sector developments."
Heating in Scotland comes from burning gas, "which is largely imported, unsustainable, and polluting the atmosphere," Townsend said.
District heating, which carries hot water in pipes to homes and businesses, has the main role to play in decarbonizing the heating sector, Townsend said, and added that geothermal is by far the lowest carbon heat source, emitting only two grams per kilowatt-hour of heat on average.
A 2013 Scottish Government released report, indicating that one-third of Scotland’s heat demand could theoretically be met by the heat within the mines, supports Town Rock Energy's hopes of proving that geothermal energy has an important place in Scotland's energy mix.
"Aside from reducing fuel poverty, the biggest driver of geothermal development is energy security," Townsend stressed.
"Local geothermal resources provide energy to local communities, reducing dependence on imported gas. The most robust energy nation is one that uses only sustainable local energy sources, and this is what Scotland is aiming for," he said.
Despite past unawareness on Scotland's geothermal potential, the Scottish and U.K. government have announced the next decade as the decade of renewable heat, meaning "strong political will to develop district heating, and in turn geothermal energy," Townsend hopes.
By Zeynep Beyza Karabay