Two centuries of geothermal industry, an Italian first

Published on Friday, 18 May 2018

“It may be 200 years since she made her first appearance, but the elegant, elderly lady that is geothermal power maintains a young spirit, thanks to her unwavering vocation to innovation and sustainability. Technological excellence in the geothermal sector allows us to take innovative paths and to constantly improve activity on all fronts, from the efficiency of the structures to digitalisation processes and environmental positioning”

– Massimo Montemaggi, Head of Geothermal Energy, Enel Green Power

The latest Enel addition in this sector is the Cerro Pabellón plant in Chile: it is the first geothermal centre in South America and the highest in the world. Inaugurated in 2017 in Ollagüe on the Andean plateau, it uses the most advanced technologies and will be integrated with wind turbines and photovoltaic plants: thanks to advanced storage units, it will become the centre of an independent and self-sufficient distribution network.

The integration of geothermal energy with power from other renewable sources is, after all, one of the most distinctive characteristics of Enel Green Power innovation. The Stillwater plant in Nevada is the first in the world to combine three different technologies: geothermal, solar thermal and photovoltaic – uniting the energy of the Sun and the Earth. This solution increases the quantity of electric power produced, while avoiding the need for multiple infrastructures and further reducing the environmental impact.

In Nevada’s neighbouring state, Utah, technological integration is even more closely entwined: the geothermal plant in Cove Fort is boosted with extra power from a hydroelectric generator that reuses the water in the geothermal well, thereby contributing to its stability and increasing production.

The technology introduced into the region where the geothermal industry began is similarly integrated: in Castelnuovo Val di Cecina in Tuscany, Enel combined the geothermal centre Cornia 2 with a biomass plant, creating a unique complex, the first of its kind in the world. The biomass comes from the surrounding forests (no more than 70 km from the plant) and is used to heat the geothermal vapour to increase the overall power of the structure.

Past and future

We returned to the cradle of the geothermal industry to celebrate its bicentenary. We organised a two-day event, on 7 and 8 May, with CNR to celebrate the anniversary and to provide further information on the theme of sustainable geothermal energy: a conference in Pisa and a guided tour of Larderello.  

The double appointment emphasises the importance of combining awareness of the future with that of the past. It’s a fitting way to remember the pioneering enterprise of Larderel and promote the further development of geothermal industry: two centuries of history and a future of sustainability.