Survey of Energy Resources 2007
Geothermal Country Notes
As a result of the Federal Government's ongoing promotion of renewable energy and the introduction in 2001 of the Mandatory Renewable Electricity Target (MRET), the development of the Australian geothermal resource continues. In mid-2004 the Government published a new policy, Securing Australia's Energy Future and reconfirmed its commitment to MRET. The Policy introduced a A$ 500 million Low Emissions Technology Fund which is intended to assist low-emission technologies, resulting in the abatement of greenhouse gases.
A 20 kW experimental electric power plant at Mulka (South Australia) which operated for three and a half years in the late 1980s was scaled up and commissioned in 1992 at Birdsville (Queensland). This 150 kW plant ran until end-1994. After environmental considerations dictated a change in the working fluid, and also after a change of ownership, the plant was put back on line for demonstration in mid-1999. Birdsville continues to produce a net output of 120 kW (after deducting own use of 30 kW) and supplies the town's night time electricity requirements and generally during the winter. Although the town also has access to fossil-fuel generated electricity, an automatic switching system shuts down this additional power system when the geothermal plant is able to satisfy demand.
Geothermal energy is largely used directly, particularly in southeastern Australia. Many public buildings in the city of Portland, Victoria have been heated with geothermal water since 1983 when a district heating system was installed. Additionally, there are a number of locations in Victoria and New South Wales where popular spas, visited by hundreds or thousands of people each year, have been established.
It is believed that the use of ground-source heat pumps (GSHP) continues to grow but the market (both residential and commercial) is largely unmonitored. Nevertheless, the building (40 000 m2) that houses Geoscience Australia in Symonston, (a suburb of Canberra) has its temperature controlled by 350 bores, making it the largest single GSHP installation. It is also known that many systems have been installed in public and commercial buildings in Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales.
It has been estimated that Australia's very significant hot dry rock (HDR) resource is sufficient to generate the country's electricity requirement for centuries to come. The current federal renewable energy legislation and also specific HDR laws in New South Wales, South Australia and latterly Queensland are particularly favourable for the development of this resource. Research has found HDR is particularly prevalent in the centre of the country, extending into the northeastern corner of South Australia and the southwestern corner of Queensland. The most advanced project is in the Cooper Basin, northeast South Australia, but other schemes in the state as well as in New South Wales are under way.