China ramps up geothermal energy development

(People's Daily Online) 10:00, August 09, 2023

In recent years, China has intensified efforts to develop geothermal energy, a type of sustainable energy harnessed from the Earth's underground heat.

Data showed that by the end of 2020, installed capacity for geothermal energy that could be used directly in the country had reached 40.6 gigawatts, 38 percent of the world's total, ranking first worldwide for many consecutive years.

Access to geothermal heating or cooling in China has expanded to 1.39 billion square meters, growing at an average annual rate of about 23 percent over the past five years.

A heat exchange station is pictured at the pilot base of a science and technology innovation center in Xiong'an New Area, north China's Hebei Province. (People's Daily Overseas Edition/Liao Ruiling)

In Xiongxian county, part of the Xiong'an New Area in north China's Hebei Province, a heat exchange station provides geothermal heating for more than 3,000 households.

Geothermal heating offers superior economic and environmental benefits compared to traditional heating methods, such as coal-fired heating.

Cui Wenxiu, a resident of Xiong'an New Area, previously relied on coal-fired heating and often had to add coal to the fire at midnight. "Burning coal was dirty," she said.

"Thanks to the use of geothermal energy for heating, the room temperature inside my home can exceed 20 degrees Celsius in winter. I only need to pay around 2,000 yuan ($279) in heating costs for my home, which is 103 square meters, during the entire winter heating season, cheaper than natural gas heating," Cui added.

At the pilot base of a science and technology innovation center in Xiong'an New Area, shallow geothermal energy is employed for cooling, said Gao Xiaorong, general manager of Sinopec Green Energy Geothermal Development Co., Ltd.

Industry insiders believe geothermal energy's popularity can be attributed to its wide distribution, abundant reserves, stability, reliability, and significant impact on carbon reduction, among other factors.

They emphasize that tailwater recharge technology is crucial to ensuring the exploration and utilization of geothermal energy is safe and pollution-free. The technology replenishes nearby underground reservoirs, ensuring a sustainable source of geothermal energy.

Eggs are immersed in geothermal water in Niujie township, Eryuan county, within the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, southwest China's Yunnan Province. (People's Daily Overseas Edition/Liao Ruiling)

At a geothermal energy supply station of Sinopec Green Energy Geothermal Development Co., Ltd. on Yingbin Road in Xianyang city, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, a recharging system ensures 100 percent of geothermal tailwater is reused in its two production wells. The station is the largest of its kind in Shaanxi.

"Geothermal energy can be utilized in a graded manner according to different temperatures," explained Wang Shanmin, president of the Tibet Geothermal Industry Association.

For instance, in Midu county of southwest China's Yunnan Province, which is rich in middle-high-temperature geothermal energy, geothermal energy below 45 degrees Celsius can be used for hot springs and bath facilities, between 45 and 60 degrees Celsius for heating, and that greater than 90 degrees Celsius for power generation, Wang added.

China's installed geothermal power capacity currently exceeds 50 megawatts, representing less than 1 percent of the world's total.

In recent years, the development of geothermal energy has been incorporated into China's energy plans.

China will actively advance the large-scale development of geothermal energy, promote medium and deep geothermal energy for heating and cooling, and boost geothermal energy power generation in an orderly manner, according to the country's 14th Five-Year Plan on renewable energy.

By 2025, China aims to increase its area of geothermal heating and cooling by 50 percent from 2020 levels, establish several geothermal energy power generation demonstration projects in regions abundant in geothermal resources, and double the 2020 geothermal power capacity, as stated in a guideline on promoting the development and utilization of geothermal energy.

(Web editor: Chang Sha, Liang Jun)


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