Build a Geothermal Power Station in Latrobe Valley
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Utilising geothermal energy under the brown coal in Latrobe Valley is a chance for the engineering centre of Gippsland to participate in producing clean electricity for Victoria well into the future. To accomplish this will require funds, political courage and leadership.
Geothermal energy involves harnessing the heat of the Earth’s upper crust, moving it to the surface and utilising the heat as steam, to turn generators. A mistake of earlier geothermal work was to think too big. There are more options and greater feasibility when thinking small and distributing power locally. An area with great geothermal potential is Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, where a vast heat source sits below the region’s seam of brown coal. This could be a developed as present generating infrastructure approaches the end of its operating life, which now applies to the Hazelwood Power Station which closes on March 31.
It has been known for some time that Gippsland has promising geothermal energy resources. Previously the valley generators could have used the geothermal resource below their power plants. The heat which is as little as 700m below them, could have been used to augment electricity production and reduce their CO2 output at the same time. Due to the looming climate emergency this is no longer an option. However direct production of up to 2gw (equivalent of 500 wind generators) of electricity from geothermal energy is possible within 10 years according to the Melbourne University Energy Institute (MUEI)
Two companies have had Geothermal Exploration Permits (GEP) over Gippsland for many years. Greenearth Energy (also connected with Lakes Oil) has permits that covers the Latrobe Valley / Gippsland region and the land running south to the coast. Within the area lie four of Victoria’s major brown coal fired power stations as well as various existing and potential large consumers of electricity and heat. Although Greenearth have had permits since 2009 little progress has been made. Likewise Petratherm has had a GEP over East Gippsland since 2008 and has achieved little or nothing to date.
With the closure of Hazelwood, creating a geothermal energy should be a priority The MUEI is calling for a Geothermal Institute to be established to get the ball rolling. Perhaps this could be accommodated at the Federation University Churchill Campus? Or perhaps it could become part of a revitalised SEC also located in the Valley?
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