Underground project heats up in Vanuatu

Renewable, clean energy for islands

Unlike most of the island of Efate in Vanuatu, Takara is flat, sparsely vegetated and frankly boring to the eye. About 50-minutes north east from the capital, Port Vila, it was an airstrip for the US military during World War 2, but today it has nothing special to commend it to anybody – until you spot a sign announcing that Takara has hot springs. That clearly hints at thermal activity underground in the area and it now appears highly likely that Takara will become the site for Vanuatu’s first geothermal project.

It is being developed by Geodynamics, an Australian listed company and Geoff Ward, their CEO and managing director, hopes that exploratory drilling will take place at Takara by mid-2015. Mr Ward explained that geothermal electricity is produced from steam using hot water that is trapped underground. “Holes are drilled one to two kilometres deep to reach the hot water reservoir and bring it to the surface,” he said. “This powerful resource is then used to turn a turbine that produces electricity. The hot water is later returned to the reservoir deep underground.”

He said the use of geothermal steam for electricity production began in the early 20th century, with the first experimental installation built in Larderello, Italy, in 1904. “As of 2011, about 11 gigawatts (GW) of geothermal power capacity has been built around the world, most of it in the last three decades,” he said. “However, electricity generated from geothermal sources still only represents 0.3 per cent of the world’s total power generation.”

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