The main aim behind international co-operation efforts is to network findings obtained from Swiss geothermal energy research with related activities abroad, in particular:
EU framework research programme 7 aims to promote projects relating to enhanced geothermal systems, with special focus on the problem of induced seismic activity.
Switzerland is participating in the "Geothermal ERA-NET" project, which was approved by the EU Commission and encompasses the following countries: Iceland (project leadership), the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, Turkey. The objectives of the 4-year programme are to improve cooperation and coordination between national research and development institutions and develop a coherent European research and development programme.
The process of obtaining energy from hot rock layers deep underground in the vicinity of Soultz-sous-Forêts (Alsace, France) has been researched and developed since 1987. This site, which is located 50 kilometres north of Strasbourg, is situated at the core of one of the largest heat anomalies in central Europe. The geological conditions in Soultz are also typical of those encountered at other sites in the Upper Rhine Plain. A team of researchers, engineers and energy specialists from all over Europe has been working on this pathfinding project for many years.
The power plant in Soultz is operated by the "Heat Mining" section of the European Economic Interest Grouping (EEIG), which was jointly established in 1996 by Pfalzwerke (Landau) and Electricité de Strasbourg. In the meantime, various other European companies have joined this organisation as active members. The main goal of the EEIG is to use this project to obtain findings relating to the management and long-term behaviour of a heat exchanger deep below the surface. In June 2008, the Soultz pilot power plant became the first facility in the world to produce electricity from an enhanced geothermal system. The facility in Soultz has an installed capacity of 1.5 MW. The energy source is an artificially created heat exchanger located at a depth of 4,000 to 5,000 metres. The Soultz enhanced geothermal systems project has been in a production and test phase since 2010. On the one hand, the project is being operated by a German/French industry consortium, and on the other hand, scientists have access to a scientific support programme. Switzerland is financing a research group via the Swiss Federal Office of Energy. In 2010, university research institutions have been pursuing separate efforts aimed at concluding cooperation agreements with the enhanced geothermal systems project. Circulation tests were carried out in 2009, and to some extent in 2010. The scientific support programme encompasses the study of the reservoir during long-term circulation, and an examination of the operational behaviour of the underground and production systems. Due to problems with the feed pumps, the operation of the power plant has had to be interrupted on a number of occasions.
Through its involvement in this IEA implementing agreement, Switzerland is able to maintain frequent contacts with leading international players, and is thus able to obtain information, access to which would otherwise be very difficult. At the same time, Switzerland can position its own R&D achievements and distribute its findings via the existing IEA channels. Switzerland is represented in the Executive Committee by G. Siddiqi, SFOE (ExCo member) and R. Minder (alternate ExCo Member). The following areas of activity (referred to within the IEA as "annexes") are currently in progress:
Overviews and reports on the results of the various activities can be viewed on the IEA GIA (geothermal energy implementing agreement) home page.
This partnership was established in August 2008 by the founding countries (Australia, Iceland and the USA). Switzerland joined it in October 2010, and was followed by New Zealand in 2011. The IPGT is based on a treaty, the objective of which is to implement joint specific research and development / pilot and demonstration projects. It wants to promote the development of geothermal (and especially enhanced geothermal) energy. The priorities, which are being addressed by 7 workgroups, are as follows: low-cost drilling technologies; zonal insulation and packer technology; high-temperature measuring instruments; stimulation methods; numeric simulations; exploration technologies; induced seismicity. For Switzerland, in view of the practical experiences obtained from the Basel enhanced geothermal systems project, the main focus is on stimulation methods and induced seismicity.