By: Anna ILLARIONOVA | Sustainability Projects & Practice Sharing at Enel | December 22nd, 2017

Enel through its Global Renewable Energies division is the world leading integrated geothermal operator. In Italy Enel operates 34 geothermal plants in Tuscany with a net installed capacity of 761 MW, providing emission-free electricity to about 2.5 million households. The use of geothermal energy in the area is an extraordinary driver for local socio-economic development that is constantly strengthening and expanding while creating additional value for Enel and its stakeholders. In fact, 6.1 billion KWh produced in Tuscany are meeting over 30% of the regional electricity needs and providing heat to:

  • 10,000 residential users;
  • local companies in geothermal areas - approximately 30 hectares of greenhouses and dairies;

  • agricultural supply chain and food industry

The contribution of the geothermal energy to the economic development of the area is also reinforced by strategic partnerships with universities and local enterprises that can start activities benefiting from know-how and logistics that already exist and is applied for construction and maintenance of thermoelectric power plants’ components, steam generators and other geothermal equipment. Enel's support for business growth gives the local companies an opportunity to participate in international tenders and work for Enel power plants in various parts of the world.

One of the recent successful projects is the experimentation with spirulina algae production. In October 2017 Enel commissioned the first world pilot geothermic power plant which heat is used for the spirulina algae cultivation and that is fully CO2 carbon free. The activity was organized in partnership with the Consortium for the Geothermal Areas Development and the Department of Agro-Food Science and Environment at the University of Florence. The project aims at demonstrating the possibility and the convenience of developing high-value commercial crops in the areas, adjacent to geothermal power plants, increasing their economic and employment impacts.

The pilot plant has a size of approximately 125 square meters and produces in open tanks and vertical panel photoreceptors. The probation period will finish at the beginning of summer 2018 and will provide useful data to potential entrepreneurs who could be interested in developing spirulina algae cultivation in geothermal areas, and using it for food or health products and cosmetics, while opening a new frontier for sustainable nutrition products. The plant, where this experiment is being held, is perfectly integrated with the local environment from architectural and visual points of view, and became a technological excellence in the panorama of the Tuscany renewable plants.

Enel geothermal business is becoming more and more valuable from cultural and touristic points of view. To attract the attention of tourists, associations, schools and other groups the Geothermal Museum was established with a demonstration show of geothermal power and the Larderello facilities that has already exceeded 26,000 visits. Great results are also achieved in the areas of the Biancane Park, geothermal trekking along the "Geothermal & Steam" trail, environmental activities, Open Plants, centers and activities of the Geothermal Development Consortium (Co.Svi .G.) and the Community of Food Industry & Renewable Energy, which registered more than 60,000 visits.

The Larderello Geothermal Museum tells the visitors a fascinating story and illustrates a transition towards a renewable future. It is located at Enel Village in Larderello: a completely renovated, high technology and multimedia facility, opened to the world of schools and research as well as to all visitors interested in knowing the geothermal phenomenon in its multiple meanings, from history to activity in the chemical industry, from the power industry to the heat use. A treasure discovered in the subsoil of Pisa, Siena and Grosseto provinces produces electricity from renewable sources and is able to satisfy over 30% of the Tuscany Region energy needs.

The museum visitors can choose a paid visit with a professional guide or opt for a free visit guided by a ProScenium system that allows you to make a path to discover geothermal energy with a narrative voice and a beam of light that always attracts the visitor's attention to the object described. This is a spectacular trip to the center of the Earth in a 3D room that accompanies the visitor to a virtual descent in the heart of the planet, where energy takes its shape and geothermal energy finds its source.

The project became so successful thanks to Enel collaboration with Co.Svi.G., municipalities, Community of Food Industry & Renewable Energy, Radicondoli museum "Energy of the Territory", Biancane di Monterotondo (Tuscany Region), associations of geothermal territories that have been working hard for the promotion and care of visiting areas, making geothermal places a landmark for national and international tourism.

Enel geothermal plants are not only part of the renewable energy portfolio but also the culture, tourism, food and wine, and sustainable agriculture. This socio-economic part continues to develop: in addition to basil, cheese and salami produced using geothermal heat, the "geothermal table" is completed also with beer from a recently established "Beer Steam" in Castelnuovo Val di Cecina. The new bottles of this beer are labeled as "Beer produced with a totally renewable energy process thanks to Enel geothermal heat". So from geothermal landscape to many grocery stores and supermarkets in Tuscany arrives not only a high quality beer, which is produced properly by brewing, boiling and fermenting at the best temperatures available from geothermal heat, but also a 100% renewable.

Finally, in order to increase the integration of the power plants with the territory, the Constellation Project was launched in Larderello, which consists of using the large hyperbolic towers of the luminous projection screens that draw on the plants walls the main constellations of the celestial sphere.

VALUE FOR BUSINESS

Positive impact of all initiatives described, extensively enhances Enel's business opportunities. In addition to producing and selling electricity and heat, the company creates environment for innovation and new technology. The development of the circular economy solutions integrated into the local areas and expanding local businesses that help optimize power plants’ maintenance costs. Integration of creating shared value in business, and Group’s commitment to the UN SDGs: Access to Energy (SDG 7), Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8), Climate Action (SDG 13) and values of the Open Power concept.

VALUE FOR THE STAKEHOLDERS

Geothermal is a 360° natural resource used for the production of clean and renewable electricity but also valuable for other areas from heat to reducing ecological footprint. Developing these opportunities means fostering economic development, protecting the environment, promoting the well-being of local communities and becoming a reference point for innovative sectors, starting from healthy food and specific nutrition products.

Local communities benefit from employment growth, sustainable entrepreneurship, environmental awareness and access to energy. The facilities guarantee direct employment of about 700 people and an indirect engagement of over thousand employees.

Photos are kindly provided by Fabio Sartori

          

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