Baseload, Bioenergy, Geothermal, Solar

World’s First Integrated Geothermal and Biomass Plant Goes Online

Enel Green Power has announced the completion of a 5 megawatt (MW) biomass power plant in Italy’s Tuscany region that integrates biomass with geothermal steam generation.

A first of its kind, the newly constructed biomass plant will use locally sourced virgin forest organic matter and a “super-heater” boiler to increase steam temperatures at the nearby 13-MW Cornia 2 geothermal plant. Geothermal steam temperatures entering the Cornia 2 plant will be raised from 300 degrees to over 700 degrees (Fahrenheit). The result, according to Enel Green Power, will be an increase in the geothermal plant’s net electricity generation capacity.

It is projected that the integration of the biomass plant will boost the overall Cornia 2 geothermal plant output by some 30 gigawatt hours (GWh) a year. It will also mitigate the emission of 13,000 tonnes of CO2 annually. This innovative technological approach will result in minimal local environmental impact and secure “total renewability” within the resources used and the cycle of energy generation.

Francesco Venturini, CEO of Enel Green Power, said the combination of the two technologies is “a major step forward for the future of renewable energy” and expects it will result in the establishment of a replicable model that “opens up new local energy, economic and employment opportunities.”

Enel Green Power reports that the project, which cost an estimated 15 million euros, will result in the creation of as many as 40 direct and indirect jobs. Most of the jobs will relate to the sourcing of the biomass materials needed.

Riccardo Amoroso, head of innovation for sustainability at Enel Green Power, said he believes integrating different renewable technologies can create “a better whole” that will increase efficiencies and lower risks to the native ecosystem.

“Combining two technologies to create a hybrid plant producing electricity from renewable sources at the same location increases the generation of zero-emission energy,” Amoroso said. “It also makes it possible to use the same infrastructure, such as electrical interconnection lines, thereby saving costs and further reducing environmental impact.”

Although the plant’s integration of biomass and geothermal is a global first of its kind, Enel Green Power is no stranger to the coupling of different renewable energy technologies to usher in greater levels of energy efficiency and lowered carbon emissions.

In Nevada, Enel Green Power commissioned the construction of the Stillwater Solar Geothermal Hybrid plant, which Amoroso said “combines the continuous generation capacity of binary-cycle, medium-enthalpy geothermal power with solar photovoltaic and solar thermodynamic.” The company is also responsible for the construction of the Fontes Solar facility in Brazil, which integrates solar PV with wind.

According to Amoroso, the continued development of hybrid projects will be “more attractive to utilities” as cost savings from shared infrastructures are realized. “In some cases, it may also allow projects that otherwise may have been unfeasible as stand-alone geothermal or solar projects to become more economically and technologically viable.”

Enel Green Power has operations throughout Europe, Africa and the Americas. The company’s estimated total generation capacity from its combined renewable operations was 32 billion kWh in 2014. Its total installed capacity exceeds 9 GW.