Emblematic Project Could Pave Way for GeothermalBy Cas Biekmann | Fri, 09/18/2020 - 12:11
Q: How did the company start its operations in Mexico and in what areas has it focused?
A: The company was founded in 2007 in Madrid. In 2011, the company opened its first office outside of Spain, which was located in Chile. On February 2016, the company opened up its Mexican office. We chose Aguascalientes because I know the area quiet well, due to its strategic and central location for various industries. Importing a technology that is not well-known in Mexico has been a bit of a challenge. Therefore, our efforts are focused on educating the country about the benefits of heat pumps and air source heat pumps (ASHPs).
Heat pumps have been an important core of our operations. We are expanding these as part of our base operations. Energy savings from heating water are enormous, often reaching energy and cost savings of over 60 percent. For industrial users, this increases their competitiveness significantly. This year, our goal was to recreate our success with the geothermal project in other states but the pandemic has paused these plans.
Regarding ASHPs, we have installed systems for both domestic and industrial users. One example is a complete project for a hotel in Aguascalientes where they use it to power their heating and air-conditioning. The building does not have any access to gas, which surprises people. Operating costs are much lower, around 90 percent less compared to gas. Our equipment is manufactured and tested based on European norms. To everyone’s delight, the equipment is more than adequate for the Mexican context. In fact, the systems have an even higher yield here.
We have also worked with photovoltaic panels for the past three years, with around 0.5MW installed. Solar energy has great potential and has already achieved some success, so we are happy to further develop these two lines of business. An interesting goal for us would be to combine the two outside of the domestic sphere, in an integral solution.
Q: How would you assess the viability of hybrid projects, using both geothermal and solar energy?
A: This is a completely viable option. There are specific requirements the client must meet. In the domestic segment, we have helped to deliver electricity while taking away the need for gas. In these houses, heating and cooling is done with the heat pump. All the electricity consumed comes from a small photovoltaic system. For industrial users, we have analyzed various projects regarding pre-heating processes of water, as well as painting or cleaning processes. Although we have yet to build an entire project, we see great potential.
Q: What are the main differentiators for Mexico and Chile’s geothermal niches, and what could one learn from the other?
A: The main differentiator, a disadvantage for Mexico, is the electricity system and its application related to heat pumps. Our suppliers are European, so they do not focus on the Mexican system per se. This means we cannot import all the equipment we use in Chile or Spain. Another difference is related to gas. In Chile, all heat pumps work with gas instead of electricity. The niche we work in is quite similar to Mexico, which includes hotels and sports clubs. But in Chile, the agricultural industry and mining are also using geothermal energy.
Chile could learn from Mexico’s drive to develop and adopt new technologies. In Chile, geothermal energy is further limited by much higher prices to drill and install the systems. In Mexico, this is cheaper, although it is still more expensive than in Europe. Chile also could further diversify its energy sources, as is the case in Mexico.
Q: What needs to happen in Mexico’s energy sector to promote low-temperature geothermal energy?
A: Regarding low-temperature geothermal energy, there are no set regulations. The previous government was somewhat open to discussion. We were quite close with the General Directorate of Clean Energies and its subdirectorate of geothermal energy. Here, we were involved in guidelines regarding permits, based on Spanish and German systems. We gained experience from going through the same process in Madrid, but the process here did not achieve much success due to the change in government. We hope that this process will restart soon. If these guidelines can be established, it would mean a great deal for the viability of low-temperature geothermal projects. If promotion could be boosted as well, using emblematic projects as examples, the technology could develop further.
Q: What are the main objectives GEOTER has set for the coming years?
A: We want to install our first Mexican MW of photovoltaic energy this year. It is only a small step, but we consider it very important. Last year, we installed our first geothermal system, so we would like to expand further by replicating this success in other states. For these bigger projects, we would like to generate more emblematic projects, and as a result, open more business opportunities in other areas. Expanding our business will be our main objective.
GEOTER Renovables was founded in Madrid in 2007, with a focus on geothermal projects. It pioneered in heat generation through low-temperature geothermal resources in Spain, which can also be used for climatization purposes or to heat potable water.