Geothermal in Australia
The first geothermal licence in Australia was granted in 2001 in South Australia following geothermal legislation being passed in the State. All other States have since released geothermal legislation, with WA’s ratified in January 2008. Each State has different legislation. In their summary of the Australian geothermal industry for 2008, the Australian Geothermal Energy Group (AGEG 2009) reported the following: there are 48 geothermal exploration companies with 385 geothermal licences (granted and applications) covering over ~360,000 km2; the number of new geothermal applications in 2008 increased by 39% over the previous year; ten projects had reached the drilling phase; and State and Federal Governments committed $64.6 million in Government grants for project development.
Initial geothermal exploration in Australia targeted Hot Rock resources in the Cooper Basin on the premise that the hottest rocks will make the best geothermal projects. These first projects targeted are in very remote parts of Australia without transmission infrastructure or significant local markets and consequently need to be extremely large to justify development. More recently a few geothermal companies (including New World Energy) recognised that lower temperature resources from hot water in aquifers represent potentially significant geothermal resources with lower risk, shorter lead-times and better proximity to markets. These resources are now rapidly gaining acceptance as a significant potential source of geothermal energy with the view that they will become the first commercial geothermal energy projects.
The figure below depicts the status of geothermal licences (ie granted and applications) in Australia as at April 2009. The map also includes acreage releases in Western Australia.