The Scottish Highlands may be a promising location for deep geothermal energy production, which offers long-term, consistent green power supplies. Meantime, ground and air source technologies are being embraced in the area.
An expert at the University of St Andrews has pinpointed the Highland area’s potential for generating geothermal energy at locations close to major electricity transmission lines.
Dr. Ed Stephens, Senior Lecturer at the university’s School of Geography and Geosciences, called for the UK to explore its deep geothermal energy potential in a paper published in June 2009. The paper refers to development of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS), which relate to the heat energy held in rocks thousands of metres below the earth’s surface . Dr Stephens suggests Scotland is one of the UK’s "promising targets" and that "potential certainly exists in the Scottish Highlands for high enthalpy EGS (Enhanced Geothermal Systems) capable of power generation in locations close to major 400KV transmission lines."
In October 2009, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) launched the £6 million Deep Geothermal Challenge Fund to help finance the search by companies for British sites that might be viably mined. The attraction is the discovery of long-term energy resources and the production of constant electricity with low environmental impacts. Southampton has been using such a system for over 20 years as part of its district heating network.
Within the Highlands and Islands, ground source geothermal activity relates typically to use by housing associations for heating homes or by communities for heating village halls. In addition, Inverness College has been supplying manufacturer-specific training for Dimplex in installation of air source heat pumps, as an appropriate technology for locations without access to a nearby area of land.
Over 20 companies in the region provide services for the geothermal sector. These range from a company such as Highland Geodrill Solutions Ltd of Inverness, a drilling contractor for geothermal boreholes and vertical ground loops, to Invisible Heating Systems of Ullapool which supplies heating and cooling systems via a range of micro-renewable technologies including ground, water and air source heat pumps.