GER SA Managing Director Fiammetta Mondino interviewed by The Map Report
GER SA Manging Director Fiammetta Mondino interviewd by The Map Report
Geothermal energy can play a key role in promoting the transition to renewable and clean energy and in meeting the energy needs of industrialised and developing societies. This form of energy makes use of the natural heat of the earth which increases progressively with depth. Temperature values can vary depending on the conditions of the subsoil. To find out more, we interview Dr Fiammetta Mondino, Managing Director of Geneva Earth Resources SA (GER SA), an energy company based in Geneva (CH). After many years in the hydrocarbons industry with four other partners, she established an international competence centre specialised in the development of low- and high-enthalpy geothermal projects.
Tosini: Dr. Mondino, can you tell us more about geothermal energy and explain how it can meet different energy needs?
Mondino: “Geothermal energy is a very versatile energy that can produce heat or cooling and, in appropriate conditions, even electricity, thanks to the different temperatures that can be found underground. The most widespread and least expensive geothermal energy, with guaranteed success, is ‘low-enthalpy’ geothermal energy. This uses heat from wells at a depth of 50-80m and, by exploiting the difference in temperature between the subsoil and the external temperature, can cool or heat homes, industrial complexes, greenhouses, etc. This technology ensures that the temperature of the subsoil is reached and maintained. This technology ensures that desired temperatures are reached and maintained all year round. Medium/high-enthalpy geothermal energy, generated at greater depths and therefore with deeper wells, makes it possible to reach temperatures that can be used directly for the production of hot water for district heating, as for example in Paris and Munich. In the same way, heat can be generated to assist agricultural production in greenhouses, as is already widely done in Holland and Switzerland, or electricity as in Larderello in Tuscany”.
Tosini: What other advantages does low-enthalpy geothermal energy have?
Mondino: “The advantages of geothermal energy are many: first of all, it makes it possible to completely replace or substantially reduce the need for energy produced by hydrocarbons used mainly for heating (diesel or gas oil for boilers) or for generating electricity to run air conditioning. In fact, only low consumption of fossil fuels will be needed to drive the heat pump which allows the exchange of heat between the underground and the outside temperature. This electricity could be produced, for example, by photovoltaic panels, allowing us to completely abandon the need for access to fossil fuels. This type of energy also makes a substantial and innovative contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The advantage of this energy source is that its effectiveness and use do not depend on the geological and geographical situation. For example, in countries with high summer temperatures such as Africa and the Middle East, geothermal energy could be a game changer for the production of low temperatures to cool homes, offices and industries and thus reduce the need for electricity of non-renewable origin”.
Tosini: What concrete projects is GER working on at the moment?
Mondino: “GER SA is currently involved in several medium-enthalpy geothermal projects in cooperation with energy distribution companies in Switzerland. In Italy we are developing low-enthalpy geothermal projects on small Sicilian islands for private homes and for cooling the cellars of large wine producers. In Africa, through our branch in Dakar, GER Africa, we are working with farms in remote areas of Senegal to develop geothermal projects for the construction of a series of cold chambers with geothermal temperatures of 4/8 degrees. This project, which is particularly close to our company’s heart, represents a huge challenge for most African farmers and ranchers. It will demonstrate, for the first time on the African continent, the easy accessibility of geothermal energy for basic needs, such as access to food. Geothermal energy has so far been limited to very specific and restricted geological ‘hot’ areas (Kenya and Malawi), while its benefits can address major socio-economic issues, such as access to food and poverty reduction across the African continent. The introduction of geothermal energy in the agro-food chain is therefore not only a technological innovation, but also allows the improvement of health and social conditions of rural populations, creating new jobs and ensuring access to food for longer periods of time, contributing concretely to the energy transition. A global problem cannot be tackled by rich countries alone.
Interview by Nestar Tosini, The Map Report