Completed joint project "Hydropower and geo-energy"

The project investigated the potential for new hydropower plants and obtained findings on the use of underground areas for geothermal energy and CO2 storage.

​The transition towards a CO2-free energy system requires the growth of established technologies such as hydropower and the development of new sources such as geothermal heat or electricity. This project headed up by Prof. Domenico Giardini from the Institute of Geophysics at ETH Zurich makes important contributions to this goal by showing the potential for new hydropower plants, and by advancing our understanding of the subsurface and the processes related to its exploitation.


Enhanced geothermal systems (EGS, also termed petrothermal) do not require natural permeability, they instead rely on hydraulic stimulation. A number of prediction codes were developed for this purpose, which will aid the development of EGS. Conversely, it was found that the Upper Muschelkalk formation below the Swiss Plateau is generally not suitable for hydrothermal electricity production. The Upper Muschelkalk represents a CO2 storage capacity of ~50 million tons, one order of magnitude below the theoretical potential assessed in the CARMA project (Carbon Dioxide Management in Power Generation).

Suitable reservoir sites for new potential HPPs in the Swiss periglacial environment were selected with a potential of an additional 1.1 TWh/yr. Novel design guidelines for longer desanding facilities were developed targeting application by design engineers. For some catchments, an improvement of meteorological and hydrological forecasts can lead to an annual average production gain of between 4% and 6%. The understanding and mitigation of risks related to geo- and hydropower were advanced using various approaches.