GeoSmart Decision Support System (DSS): Sustainable Development for Geothermal Energy

December 1, 2023 by

Geothermal energy has emerged as a frontrunner in the quest for sustainable and renewable energy sources, offering a reliable and eco-friendly alternative to conventional power generation. A multidimensional approach is essential, encompassing efficiency, flexibility, and environmental considerations to exploit the full potential of geothermal energy. This is precisely where the “Technologies for geothermal to enhance competitiveness in smart and flexible operation” (GeoSmart project) introduces a game-changing tool: the GeoSmart Decision Support System (DSS).

In this article, Dr. Mahfuza Ahmed, Collaborative Research Leader at Technovative Solutions Ltd. (TVS), gives us an extensive overview of the GeoSmart Decision Support System (DSS) and the sustainable development prospect in the geothermal energy sector.

The GeoSmart Project: A Glimpse into Sustainable Energy

At the heart of the GeoSmart project lies a collective vision to revolutionise geothermal energy solutions. The primary objective of GeoSmart is to provide flexible and more efficient geothermal energy solutions by implementing innovative mechanisms like Thermal Energy Storage (TES) systems, Scaling Reduction Systems (SRS), and adiabatic cooling technologies. By utilising Phase Change Materials (PCMs) in the PCM Storage system and Water Thermocline, we aim to enhance the flexibility of existing geothermal power plants while ensuring a reliable and sustainable energy supply. Furthermore, the SRS and the adiabatic cooling system are the technologies that enhance the efficiency of the plants. GeoSmart strives to create a paradigm shift by optimising geothermal power plant operations through innovative technologies and knowledge-based decision-making.

Unveiling the GeoSmart Decision Support System (DSS)

The GeoSmart DSS is the project's keystone, offering a comprehensive platform for informed decision-making in geothermal energy management. This sophisticated web-based application integrates many models, algorithms, and knowledge-based decision rules to provide a holistic geothermal energy utilisation and optimisation framework. Through an intuitive user interface, the DSS enables geothermal power plant operators and developers to navigate the complexities of system design, operation, cost and environmental impact assessments.

The Building Blocks: Flexibility Solutions, Efficiency Enhancement Solutions, and Solution Optimisation

The GeoSmart DSS is structured around two parent classes: Flexibility Solutions and Efficiency Enhancement Solutions. These classes encapsulate modules, each tailored to address specific facets of geothermal power plants, which go through financial and environmental optimisations.

Flexibility Solutions: Pioneering Thermal Energy Storage (TES)

The Thermal Energy Storage (TES) modules lie at the core of Flexibility Solutions. These modules, including PCM and Water Thermocline storage systems, offer dynamic and efficient energy management. The PCM module harnesses the remarkable properties of phase change materials to store and release energy efficiently, optimising thermal energy utilisation. The Water Thermocline module offers a cutting-edge approach to thermal energy storage, empowering users to optimise charging and discharging parameters for enhanced energy flexibility.

Efficiency Enhancement Solutions: Elevating System Performance

Efficiency Enhancement Solutions focuses on maximising geothermal power plant performance through innovative technologies. The Scaling Reduction System module is a bulwark against scaling issues, incorporating components like the Scaling Heat Exchanger, Scaling Reactor, and Retention Tank. This system effectively mitigates scaling potential, ensuring the seamless operation of geothermal power plants. Whereas, the Adiabatic Cooling System module, driven by weather data and cooling fan parameters, optimises cooling strategies, reducing water consumption and enhancing environmental sustainability.

Optimisation for Informed Decisions: The Synergy of Cost Analysis and Environmental Impact Assessment

What sets the GeoSmart DSS apart is its innate capacity for optimisation. The DSS performs the cost and environmental impact analyses for each GeoSmart innovation (TES, SRS, Adiabatic cooling system). The environmental impact analysis includes the impact on climate change (carbon footprint), human health, ecosystem quality and resources. And also evaluate the overall environmental footprint of the GeoSmart components. Financial metrics such as Levelised Cost of Energy (LCoE), Net Present Value (NPV), Internal Rate of Return (IRR), Payback Period (PBP), and Return on Investment (ROI), seamlessly intertwine with ecological considerations. Together, DSS offers a comprehensive evaluation of the GeoSmart proposed solutions, empowering users to make decisions that holistically balance economic viability and environmental stewardship. This distinctive approach propels the GeoSmart DSS beyond conventional decision support systems. It becomes a compass, guiding stakeholders toward energy solutions that harmonise fiscal prudence and environmental responsibility. Integrating these critical optimisation components, the GeoSmart DSS embodies a paradigm shift, spearheading geothermal power plant operations toward a more sustainable future.

Visualising the GeoSmart DSS Workflow

As we navigate the GeoSmart DSS, it's vital to visualise how the modules interact and contribute to the decision-making process. The following flowchart illustrates the inter-connection of the modules within the DSS:

Fig: Flowchart of GeoSmart KBDSS Modules

This visual representation encapsulates the journey from Plant Characterization to Flexibility Solutions and Efficiency Enhancement Solutions. Then, all of them go through cost and environmental optimisations, highlighting the seamless integration that forms the bedrock of the GeoSmart DSS.

Making Informed Choices: The GeoSmart DSS in Action

As users input data into the GeoSmart DSS, the system processes this information through knowledge-based decision rules, cost analysis, and environmental impact models. The output is a wealth of insights, empowering users to make informed decisions that optimise financial viability and ecological sustainability. The GeoSmart DSS serves as a compass, guiding users towards geothermal energy solutions that balance economic efficiency and environmental responsibility. The GeoSmart DSS operates as a cohesive ecosystem, with each module intricately connected to the others. The outputs from the Plant Characterisation module serve as foundational inputs for both Flexibility Solutions and Efficiency Enhancement Solutions. This interconnectedness ensures that decisions are based on a holistic understanding of the geothermal power plant's characteristics and requirements. As users progress through the system, the integration of Flexibility Solutions allows for dynamic energy management. The TES modules empower users to tailor energy storage and release strategies, optimising power plant performance in response to fluctuating energy demands. Meanwhile, the Efficiency Enhancement Solutions further elevate system efficiency, ensuring smooth operations and reduced environmental impact.

Conclusion: A Bright Path Forward

The GeoSmart DSS stands as a testament to the power of technology and innovation in shaping the future of geothermal energy. By providing a comprehensive platform that marries innovations and knowledge-based models, as well as data-driven analysis and environmental consciousness, the DSS equips stakeholders with the tools needed to make decisions that transcend short-term gains and empower them to embark on a sustainable energy journey. With the increasing global emphasis on renewable resources, the GeoSmart DSS leads the path for geothermal power plants that demonstrate efficiency and a strong commitment to environmental responsibility. As the GeoSmart project continues to evolve and innovate, the GeoSmart DSS remains at the forefront of a transformative energy paradigm, offering a glimpse of what the future holds - a future where geothermal energy is not just harnessed but optimised, sustained, and celebrated for its immense potential in shaping a better world. With the increasing global emphasis on renewable resources, the GeoSmart DSS leads the path for geothermal power plants that demonstrate efficiency and a strong commitment to environmental responsibility.

GeoSmart Webinar

Register and join for a webinar ‘Geothermal Power for a Smart Electricity Market and Grids,’ on 1 December 2023 to experience an insightful and informative exploration of the initial findings from the GeoSmart project:

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