Swiss authorities left with 3km deep hole after failing to find geothermal power

Swiss authorities left with 3km deep hole after failing to find geothermal power

As the saying goes, “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” Clearly, some workers in Switzerland did not get the memo, as they discovered that the 3-kilometre deep hole they dug to provide geothermal power to surrounding houses, could not actually produce any energy.

90-ton boring machine tunnels 3 kilometres below Canton Vaud

For many months, a 90-ton boring machine has been digging through the rock near Lavey-les-Bains, Canton Vaud. The hope was to dig a deep hole so that geothermal energy sourced from within the ground could be used to heat and provide energy to 900 households. The cost of the project: 40 million francs.

Despite what 20 minuten described as the “hardness of the ground and the instabilities in the borehole walls”, the machine managed to dig nearly three kilometres into the ground without causing an earthquake or other emergency. Unfortunately, that is where their luck would run out.

40-million Swiss franc geothermal project does not produce power

To produce energy from the hole, it would have to produce a significant and constant flow of steam measuring 110 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, while hoping for a flood, the hole only produced a trickle of hot water, making the 40-million franc project completely pointless. 

Speaking to 20 mintuen, local trustee Mario Da Silva said that “of course, we are very disappointed… Throughout the operation, the signals were green. Nothing foreshadowed this outcome. In some time, we will meet again with our partners, in order to see what other solutions can be offered.”

Swiss canton aims for 20 percent of all power to be sourced from geothermal energy

These comments were echoed by Vaud State Councillor Vassilis Venizelos, who told 20 minuten that “we would clearly have liked better efficiency, but that is part of the random nature of geothermal energy. At least this experience taught us quite a few things about our basement.” Despite the setback, he said that other projects in Vinzel and Montagny-près-Yverdon will go ahead with the hope that geothermal energy will provide for a fifth of the canton’s energy needs in the future.

Authorities announced that, while the project had failed, it had given a good insight into the composition of the soil, which will make future projects easier. The massive well created will now be filled in and the drilling machine will be relocated to the town of Vinzel, where they will hopefully strike steam.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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