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The Massive potential of Decentralised Geothermal Energy
The reduction of carbon emissions is vital, a mission acknowledged across sectors the world over, especially in the energy industry. But the challenge can, at times, appear overwhelming.
In order to overcome it, we must break out of traditional modes of thinking and operating to find local, innovative solutions to what is undoubtedly a global issue.
‘Different technologies have emerged, like solar and wind, which are great for providing electricity,’ explains Sylvian Thierry, co-founder of energy start-up Celsius. ‘But they are intermittent. For solar, you have day and night, summer and winter. And wind, too, doesn’t always blow.’
‘On the other hand,’ he continues, ‘the Earth delivers that constant energy, available all the time.’
Energy drawn from the heat of the Earth – geothermal energy – is available all the time, anywhere on the planet. Just a few metres under our feet, there’s a resilient, renewable form of heat. This untapped source of energy is perfect for the heat demands of the world as well as for rising air conditioning demand, which is expected to triple by 2050, and with it the required energy. Celsius provides what is called geocooling, a much more efficient way to air condition buildings with no visual or noise impact. On top of this, unlike usual AC systems, Celsius does not reject additional hot air in the city.
This is the vision from which Celsius was born, as an in-house start-up, spun off from French energy giant Schlumberger. Celsius began when Sylvain, Cindy and Matthieu – as co-founders – put their heads together to think outside the box and struck on buildings as a potential area for innovation.
‘Our vision is that, wherever you are in the world, you can plug your building into the earth and connect it to the energy that’s lying there,’ Cindy explains, even in dense urban areas where traditional geothermal solutions cannot be implemented.
It’s certainly an area of great prospect: around 25% of all global greenhouse gases are emitted by buildings. Rodolphe Deborre, a real estate & construction executive, and commercial partner of Celsius, enthuses about the impact of their work.
‘For the real estate and construction industry,’ he says, ‘the real challenge is to tackle climate change, and Celsius is doing that by helping reduce the need for fossil fuels. The process of working with them is easy, with guaranteed results. We get the heat we need, with zero emissions. Very comfortable.’
Celsius’s solution works by reducing the surface area requirement typically used up for drilling – usually around the size of a football pitch – to the size of around five parking spots. Harnessing technology with a digital twin model, and drilling slanted wells, Celsius can optimise its efficiency.
They then install u-shaped plastic tubes, enabling water circulation below ground, which facilitates heating as it approaches the surface. The water can then be used to heat the building.
In order to conduct the diligent and essential research needed to get this project off the ground. Celsius needed a sponsor. They went to Schlumberger to present their ideas, and the reaction was enthusiastic, confirms Olivier Peyret, the company’s Chairman in France.
They loved the idea, and gave Celsius the opportunity and resources to build a demonstrator drill in the group’s Paris Research & Development Centre.
‘We hope this can save 60% of energy use and up to 90% of our carbon emissions,’ Olivier says, before confirming that the success of the start-up will require one vital addition: collaborators. ‘We need, with partners, to scale up and make the business sustainable, and then we can become a game-changer.’
Recent years have seen a boom in wind and solar. Celsius hopes – and believes – we could be about to see the same happen with geothermal energy.