October 18 (SeeNews) - French utility Engie (EPA:ENGI) on Monday evening inaugurated France's first marine geothermal power station in Marseille.
Thassalia, as the project is named, has been designed specifically to meet the needs of Marseille's Euroméditerranée eco-city business centre.
The investment came in at EUR 35 million (USD 38.5m) for an overall heating/cooling capacity of 19 MW. Besides Engie, the project was financially backed by France’s Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) with EUR 3.4 million and the European fund for economic and regional development (FEDER) with EUR 1.6 million. Another EUR 2 million came from regional and city funds.
Built at the Marseille-Fos Port, Thassalia will tap the sea's thermal energy to generate space heating, water heating and air conditioning services for around 500,000 square metres of buildings in the city of Marseille. The use of sea water heating and cooling is expected to reduce greenhouse emissions by 70% as well as cut water usage on site by 65%.
Marine geothermal exploits the difference in temperature between warmer surface water and the cold water found at greater depths. In Marseille, for example, the water temperature is usually 14 degrees Celsius in winter and 22 in summer. Water is pumped from the sea through pipelines as long as 1 km to coastal facilities where heat exchangers and heat pumps are used to meet heating or cooling needs. The heated or cooled water is then piped to individual buildings.
Engie's first project of this kind was brought to life through its subsidiaries, Engie Cofely for thermal matters, and Climespace for district cooling. All the technical elements of the power station were created by the company's teams. Ineo and Cofely handled electricity, Axima and Cofely covered internal networks, and Axima also provided half of refrigeration units.
Engie has also announced plans to develop a larger geothermal marine project on the island of La Réunion, where the communities of St-Denis and Ste-Marie will be air-conditioned using water piped from 1,100 meters below the sea 6 km offshore.
This, EUR-150-million project is expected to meet the air-conditioning needs of around 50 large-scale public- and private-sector buildings, including the airport, hospital and university.
With nearly 40% of the global population or 2.4 billion people living at less than 100 km from the sea, the potential for marine geothermal technology is practically unlimited, Engie Cofely said in a statement.
(EUR 1 = USD 1.1)