Exploration grant for geothermal energy project of Geo-Energie Suisse AG at Haute-Sorne increased

Bern, 30.06.2020 - The Confederation increases the exploration grant for the deep geothermal pilot project of Geo-Energie Suisse AG at Haute-Sorne (Canton Jura) from around CHF 64 to 90 million. This will support additional measures to minimise earthquake risks. The geothermal power plant will have a maximum capacity of 5 megawatts and will produce electricity for around 6,000 households from geothermal energy stored in granitic rock.

The pilot project in Haute-Sorne intends to demonstrate the technical feasibility of enhanced geothermal systems in Switzerland and, at a later stage, to enable this technology to be used in other parts of Switzerland. In September 2019, the SFOE had already awarded the project in Haute-Sorne an exploration grant of at most CHF 64.1 million.

In February 2020, Geo-Energie Suisse AG submitted an application to the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) to increase the exploration grant to cover additional measures that will further reduce the risk of damaging earthquakes.

These additional measures were recommended by the Swiss Seismological Service (SED). Last year, the Canton of Jura commissioned the SED to review a report of Geo-Energie Suisse AG on earthquake risk management for the Haute-Sorne Project. Geo-Energie Suisse AG had to prepare this report in the follow-up of a damaging earthquake triggered in November 2017 by stimulation measures in a geothermal energy project in South Korea. The currently valid cantonal permit requires that the seismic risk management to go beyond the state of the art. This includes analysing events in other projects and, depending on the results of the analysis, making adjustments to Geo-Energie Suisse AG’s risk management.

In their report submitted to the Canton of Jura in January 2019, Geo-Energie Suisse AG concluded that their fundamentally different stimulation concept and corresponding risk management plan for Haute-Sorne did not warrant an adaptation based on the findings from the South-Korean events.

The SED expert analysis on the Geo-Energie Suisse AG report was published by the Canton of Jura at the beginning of April 2020. In it, the SED confirms that the measures envisaged for the management of earthquake risks (use of seismometers in shallow boreholes) are in line with the recognised state of the art and meet the strict requirements of the cantonal permit to ensure safety.

The SED recommended additional measures that go beyond the current state of knowledge and technology. These measures have an innovative and pilot character, as they are not yet used in enhanced geothermal energy projects.

Geo-Energie Suisse AG intends to implement the recommendations of the SED in order to further reduce the risk of damage from earthquakes. This will lead to additional costs totalling around CHF 43 million. Specifically, the additional measures are:

  • Installation of seismic monitoring systems directly in the boreholes
  • Networking data from a range of safety systems in one control system
  • Stress measurements in the subsurface to better estimate the magnitude of any earthquake
  • A 3D seismic survey to identify earthquake-prone faults in the region of the reservoir
  • Novel design of well stimulation to predict required pressures and stimulation fluid volumes

The application by Geo-Energie Suisse AG was examined in detail by a group of experts mandated by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE). The group of experts certified that the project planning is of high-quality, which now includes everything humanly possible to reduce the earthquake risk as far as possible.

Based on the expert opinion and the importance of deep geothermal energy for the implementation of the Energy Strategy 2050, the SFOE has now increased the geothermal energy exploration contribution of Geo-Energie Suisse AG by around CHF 26 million to CHF 90 million. Payment will be made in stages, depending on the progress of the work.

If the Canton of Jura revokes the permit, which is legally valid and has been confirmed by Switzerland’s highest court, the Federal Tribunal, the Confederation will stop the subsidy payments and oblige Geo-Energie Suisse AG to unwind the project as quickly as possible.

Address for enquiries

Marianne Zünd, Head of Media + Political Affairs SFOE, 058 462 56 75, marianne.zuend@bfe.admin.ch


Swiss Federal Office of Energy

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