Northern Ireland’s geothermal energy sector is ‘heating up’ following launch of new £3 million project

A new multimillion pound project from the Department for the Economy (DfE) is set to explore the potential for geothermal energy in Northern Ireland.

The project designed to ‘unearth the heat beneath our feet’ aims to support how we decarbonise the energy sector in pursuit of net zero carbon targets by 2050.

Launched today at the Pavilion, Stormont Estate, the project, known as GeoEnergy NI, will examine both shallow and deep geothermal at the Stormont Estate, Belfast and College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise, Greenmount Campus, Antrim, respectively.

Mike Brennan, Permanent Secretary of the Department for the Economy, said: “GeoEnergy NI is a milestone project of the Energy Strategy Action Plan, which focuses on delivering a reduction in energy-related emissions as part of the pathway to deliver net zero carbon and affordable energy by 2050. This project will increase our understanding of the potential role that geothermal energy can play in Northern Ireland’s green economy and future energy mix.

“GeoEnergy NI has the potential to be a catalyst for growth in the geothermal sector. As a reliable, low carbon, renewable energy resource that occurs naturally within the Earth, geothermal also brings with it a host of environmental, economic, and social benefits. It will play a vital role in helping the sector to develop, increase Northern Ireland’s future security of energy supply and ensure we can maximise this valuable renewable energy source for generations to come.”

Representing a £3 million investment, GeoEnergy NI is being delivered by DfE with scientific support from the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (GSNI) and a specialist contractor team led by Tetra Tech Europe.

Marie Cowan, Director of GSNI, outlined the potential for geothermal energy in Northern Ireland: “Geothermal is regarded as one of the most environmentally friendly ways of producing local, sustainable, and low-carbon energy and is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, whatever the weather. Geothermal energy is already used widely and successfully in many countries around the world including the Netherlands, Germany and France, and there are several significant geothermal projects currently being delivered elsewhere in the UK.

“Northern Ireland is very fortunate to have favourable geology with significant untapped potential for geothermal energy right beneath our feet. Building on our extensive data, research, and mapping to date, GeoEnergy NI will provide us with invaluable data to help us realise this potential and deepen our understanding of the subsurface even further.

“An additional benefit of the GeoEnergy NI project is its public and stakeholder outreach campaign. Today guests were among the first to see the new website, VR headset and educational resources. A mobile visitor centre is also planned later this year to further enhance the public’s awareness and understanding of geothermal and the economic potential Northern Ireland’s geothermal sector holds.”

Conor Lydon, Northern Ireland Director of Tetra Tech Europe, a leading global provider of consulting and engineering services said: “Working with DfE and GSNI, we are delighted to lead the consortium for the GeoEnergy NI project to help showcase the power and potential of Northern Ireland’s geothermal sector. Geothermal technology has been safely and successfully harnessed throughout the world for decades and we’re proud to bring our expertise in this sector to the project. The survey and exploratory work will use world-leading technologies and processes, safe and well-established techniques, and will be in full compliance with all local planning and environmental regulations. We have put together a strong team of experts from across the globe, all experienced in delivering geothermal projects and who have seen first-hand the tremendous benefits geothermal energy can offer.”