HRH Duke of Edinburgh, 10 June 1921 to 9 April 2021 Read more

Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy is the natural heat stored within the Earth. It can be used for water and space heating and may also be used to generate electricity.

In 2016 we developed regulatory guidance in partnership with the relevant regulatory authorities to help promote awareness of the regulatory framework for deep geothermal projects in Scotland.

We have supported a number of studies to explore the potential of geothermal energy in Scotland as a source of low-carbon heat. These are detailed below.

Potential for deep geothermal energy in Scotland

In 2013 we commissioned AECOM, in partnership with the British Geological Survey (BGS), to study the potential for deep geothermal energy in Scotland. They identified three geothermal energy sources with significant potential:

  • abandoned mineworkings, such as those in Scotland’s Midland Valley
  • hot sedimentary aquifers, which are bodies of permeable rock that can conduct significant quantities of groundwater
  • hot dry rocks , which in Scotland are likely to exist in high heat production granites such as those in East Grampian and to the north of Inverness

Since the report was published we have been working with stakeholders to build on these findings to help develop a geothermal energy industry in Scotland. Read the two volumes of the study report below.

Feasibility studies

In 2014 we established the short-life Geothermal Energy Expert Group to provide advice on how to kickstart the geothermal industry in Scotland. The group recommended that we fund feasibility studies to collect further data on Scotland’s geothermal resource and identify potential local markets for that resource.

We launched the Geothermal Energy Challenge Fund in March 2015 as part of the Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme (LCITP). From 2015 to 2016 we made a grant of almost £200,000 available under LCITP to explore the technical feasibility, economic viability, and environmental sustainability of the geothermal resource in sites in:

  • Fife
  • North Lanarkshire
  • Aberdeen
  • Aberdeenshire
  • Clackmannanshire

Further work at the Fife site received a £37,000 grant from the LCITP.

A life cycle assessment of the carbon intensity of low enthalpy deep geothermal heat systems has been undertaken, building on the findings of the feasibility study exploring the potential for a deep geothermal heat project at the Hill of Banchory, Aberdeenshire.  The results are available as an open access article in ‘Science of the Total Environment’.

Learning journey

In March 2016 we and Scottish Development International (SDI) sponsored a learning journey for stakeholders in the public, private and academic sectors to the Heerlen project in the Netherlands which is exploring the potential of geothermal energy from stored water in abandoned coalmines.

A learning journey report was produced to detail observations from the trip.

Research site in Glasgow

The east end of Glasgow is one of the sites which form the British Geological Survey (BGS) UK Geoenergy Observatories Programme.  At the Glasgow Geoenergy Observatory site (formerly known as the Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Field Site), a network of 12 boreholes has been drilled and fitted with 319 sensors. These are designed to observe how warm water moves around the abandoned mineworkings.   

To understand the potential opportunity for economic development presented by the location of the research site in Glasgow, Scottish Enterprise commissioned a company demand analysis.   

The BGS and the University of Stirling published Evaluating the Relationship between Public Percpetion, Engagement and Attitudes Towards Underground Energy Technologies which shows the findings of a research study exploring attitudes towards geoenergy and decarbonisation

Contact

For more information on geothermal energy, contact Johann MacDougall at johann.macdougall@gov.scot.