The Baltic Course  

The Earth’s heat to warm pavements 

By Zhudrunas Damauskas, Lietuvos Rytas, special report from Iceland and Lithuania

Lithuania is the only Baltic State which uses Earth’s geothermal energy for consumption, thus following Iceland example, the world acknowledged leader in the “green” thermo-energy usage

Danes instead of Icelanders

Geothermal station in Lithuania is built in the harbor city  Klaipeda. It does not produce electricity but the heat, which is distributed to the citizens of Klaipeda. The owners of the geothermal station, in action for already two years, are not satisfied, i.e. the Danish geothermal station contractor, DONG made a false project and the Lithuanian State Committee can not still adopt the station’s construction. A few years ago during the time when the decision to build geothermal station in Klaipeda was at its initial stage, the Icelandic company Virkir Orkint came to Lithuania (now the company is called Enex). But at that time Lithuania was not interested in Icelandic impetus in the country and Icelanders went back empty-handed.

The reason for such an outcome was that Danish government donated at that time several million dollars for the station construction. Denmark was entitled to appoint its own consultant and planning constructor, i.e. the DONG company. During the project planning a Danish contractor could not predict that warm water coming from underground was too much saturated by salt and they did not assemble the needed equipment to prevent gypsum crystals from sediments on the walls of tubes. Now Lithuanians regret very much that they preferred money instead of Icelandic experience.

“The Icelanders offered their own service, but that would cost money.  Therefore their competence was not accepted”, explained Alfonsas Bichkus, director of the Lithuanian company Geoterma which presently administrates the station. According to his version, ignoring the Danes meant at that time loosing financial assistance. Nobody cared actually much at that time whether Danish side was competent enough in the particulars of geothermal station construction.

Iceland – the country of clean energy

Iceland, the island in the Atlantic Ocean, has widely used geothermal energy for centuries and not only for producing heat but electric energy as well. Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland uses for heating only warm water from the Earth’s wells. Besides, the country produces electric energy at hydroelectric stations. Iceland wants to be the first country in the world, which uses ecologically clean energy sources. It is expected that in 30 –40 years the country will use hydrogen obtained from sea water by the process of electrolysis instead of petroleum products for cars and fishing vessels. The first such station not only in the country but also in Europe was opened in May.

Some benefits from earthquakes 

In the country of geysers the geothermal energy is used in winter for heating not only houses and apartments, but also greenhouses, pavements and dangerous traffic routes as well. The Icelanders say that it is cheaper to heat pavements and roads than to heal the injuries obtained on the slippery icy pedestrian surfaces. There are a lot of basins and swimming pools with hot geothermal water in the country with only 280 thousand inhabitants. Visiting Icelanders’ homes one can always remember the scent of rotten eggs’ smell in bathrooms or kitchens. Still Icelanders are proud of this scent; they call it Icelandic perfume. “We love this odour, as it’s purely natural”, explains Albert Albertsson, representative of one of the nation’s energy companies. He also adds that earthquakes are actually Icelanders` friends, as they create huge reservoirs of high temperature water under the Earth’s surface. The water segregates also in the cliffs’ gaps, which emerge after earthquakes.

Geotermal station in Lithuania is built in the harbor city Klaipeda

Photo: A. Cepulinskaite

Lithuania’s “cold” water

Iceland which is situated in a very seismic active area the temperature of water and steam, coming from the bowels of the earth can reach 300–400 degrees. In Lithuania the temperature of water at the depth of 1 km is not higher than 38 degrees. This is the answer to the question why the station in Klaipeda need to produce the heat, at the depth of 2 km the underground water temperature could reach 72 degrees, but huge investments are needed in order to pump it up. Currently the station can hardly meet the ends. Lithuanian state power commission has settled a price for heat at 5.39 Lt per kWh, however the company Klaipedos energija which purchases the heat pays less. Mr. A. Bichkus, the Geoterma’s director is grateful that in the new national law on heating the company that purchases the heat must pay the amount designed by the commission. He also believes that the Klaipedos energija can easily halt the plans for further new heating station construction in Klaipeda.

Lithuanian law specifies that the state has to buy energy produced from the alternative sources. However it is only Klaipedos energija that can buy heat produced by the Geoterma. Although there are many problems connected with the geothermal station, Mr. A. Bichkus considers that it is very perspective for Lithuania, as such energy is less polluting and already 41% of heat is obtained from the bowels of the Earth.

By the Lithuanian agreements with the European Union, the state shall use 7% of the “green” energy until the year 2010. However Lithuanian Economic Ministry does not plan to build new geothermal stations to reach this aim. The priority mostly will be given to the building of wind stations. Meanwhile only one such station has been built in Lithuania.