Northern Ireland public encouraged to ‘discover the heat beneath their feet’ as GeoEnergy Discovery Centre is launched

A new mobile GeoEnergy Discovery Centre has been launched to help inform the public and key stakeholders about the potential for geothermal energy in Northern Ireland as a renewable and sustainable energy source.

Funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE), the innovative visitor centre was unveiled at the annual ‘Science and Stormont’ event organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry in Parliament Buildings in cooperation with the local professional science, technology, engineering and maths community. School children and teachers from Holy Trinity Primary School in Belfast and Dundonald Primary School were also among the first to experience the centre and sample the interactive technologies.

The visitor centre is a key part of the GeoEnergy NI project being delivered by DfE with scientific support from the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (GSNI), which is designed to ‘unearth the heat beneath our feet’ and support the decarbonisation of the energy sector in pursuit of Northern Ireland’s net zero carbon targets by 2050. The project is examining both shallow and deep geothermal potential at the Stormont Estate, Belfast and College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise, Greenmount Campus, Antrim, respectively.

The GeoEnergy Discovery Centre is designed to help schools, families, businesses and community groups discover the power of geothermal energy through a range of educational resources, including interactive technologies such as Virtual Reality software. Visitors will come away appreciating the huge potential of geothermal as a sustainable energy source to heat and cool homes and buildings as well as support industry and farming.

A man and woman in the GeoEnergy Discovery Centre share a joke whilst talking about geothermal energy.

Marie Cowan, Director of GSNI and Ryan White, Director of Heat, Buildings and Climate Change at DfE are pictured at the launch of the interactive GeoEnergy Discovery Centre.

The Centre which can be pre-booked by schools and groups, will also be open to the public from World Geothermal Energy Day on 17th October and will initially be based on the Stormont Estate during autumn 2023. The centre will then take to the road to visit events and towns across Northern Ireland as part of an information roadshow.

Speaking at the launch, Ryan White, Director of Heat, Buildings and Climate Change at the Department for the Economy, said: “The GeoEnergy NI project has been making great progress since it was launched, and we are excited to now unveil a key project asset which will help showcase the potential that geothermal energy offers Northern Ireland as an important part of our future energy mix.

“A key strand of the GeoEnergy NI project is its public and stakeholder outreach campaign. Today we were pleased to introduce the GeoEnergy Discovery Centre to key stakeholders and school children at Stormont and look forward to launching it for wider public access on World Geothermal Energy Day on 17th October. We believe it will play an important role in enhancing the public’s awareness and understanding of geothermal and the economic and environmental benefits it offers through an immersive, educational experience.”

Marie Cowan, Director of GSNI, added; “Geothermal is a reliable, low carbon, renewable energy resource that occurs naturally within the Earth, and brings with it a host of environmental, economic, and social benefits. Our research shows that despite having favourable geology conditions for geothermal in Northern Ireland, it is still a relatively little-known or utilised energy source here. Through both data gathering and analysis, as well as public information and education, we believe GeoEnergy NI has the potential to be a catalyst for growth in the geothermal sector. We believe it can encourage future private sector investment in this important technology and the skills necessary to harness it across Northern Ireland.”

Groups can now register their interest in visiting the GeoEnergy Discovery Centre on the project website – Group visits will be supplemented with open access at the weekends and during the Halloween mid-term break. Details of opening times will be shared on the project website and social media channels.