A COMPANY plans to provide power for 8,000 homes by tapping into boiling water hidden four kilometres below the Earth's surface.
GT Energy has sought planning permission to build the country's first geothermal energy plant at Newcastle, Co Dublin, which it says will produce environmentally-friendly energy within two years.
Widely used in other countries including Iceland, France and Germany, geothermal energy extracts hot water and steam from within the Earth's crust which is then used to drive turbines and produce electricity.
It is considered a renewable energy source because the water is pumped back into the Earth after going through the power-generation cycle where it can be re-used.
Planning permission was sought for a €30m plant from South Dublin County Council yesterday, which if approved would result in a plant being built within two years, GT Energy managing director Padraig Hanly said.
Some 200 construction jobs would be created, and up to 15 full-time positions when the plant is up and running.
"The project is the first of its kind in Ireland," he said. "We want to harness energy from the Earth's core. We drill down 4km and harness heat energy before bringing that to the surface and supplying energy to the grid.
"If all goes well we could go ahead next year. We believe there's potential for 10 of these across Dublin. This could provide 20pc of all the heat demand for the capital. Geothermal is an abundant resource. It's always on, unlike other renewables. It has minimal visual impact, and when built it will look like any other industrial unit. It's about nine metres high and sits on less than half an acre. There's such a minimum visual impact it could be built beside a school.
"In Germany they're in planning for 150 plants. There's no reason why in years to come every town in Ireland couldn't have its own plant, supplying geothermal energy and heat. One of these plants could be built to cater for a hospital or a university."
If approved, the company will also have to seek a licence to produce electricity from the Commission for Energy Regulation.
Mr Hanly said the technology had been used since the late 19th Century in the US, and was safe.
"It's simple technology," he said. "The pipes come to the surface for about 20 metres. The worst thing that can happen is the pipes leak. The pressures will be lower. The technology on the surface is all off the shelf."
The €30m project would be funded by investors, and the plant should pay for itself in 15 years. Mr Hanly said electricity would be generated at a cheaper cost, while avoiding the need to use imported fossil fuels which contribute to climate change.