Thanks to the project ‘Geothermal energy for STEM’ (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) secondary education students can now visit the Balmatt site in Mol. The idea is to introduce young people to deep geothermal energy. Today, students in year 5 and 6 from Geel (Kogeka) and Mol (Technical Institute St. Paulus) were the first to learn about the offer for schools on the Balmatt site. This in the presence of deputy Ludwig Caluwé, the project partners, teachers, principals, business leaders and entrepreneurs.
Deep geothermal energy plays an important role in the field of energy of the future. If Belgium wants to achieve the binding target of 13% renewable energy by 2020 in an efficient manner, we need to focus more on sustainable energy. One of the sources with an important potential for green energy and electricity in Antwerp and Limburg is geothermal energy. In order to distribute the energy efficiently to the end users, the development of deep geothermal energy must be coupled with the rollout of heating networks. All the more reason to introduce students to deep geothermal energy and heating networks. During an intensive class visit to ‘Geothermal energy for STEM’, spectacular demonstrations, attractive presentations and a unique exhibition on deep geothermal energy will feature on the site where the first exploratory drilling for deep geothermal energy in Flanders is taking place.
The Kempen as a pioneer in deep geothermal energy
The Kempen has taken a pioneering role in Flanders on deep geothermal energy. On 14 September 2015, VITO launched an exploratory drilling to over 3.5 km on the Balmatt site. The drilling must demonstrate that it is possible in the Kempen to pump up hot water from the subsurface and to use it for heating and electricity production. If the drilling meets expectations, it opens possibilities for the construction of dozens of geothermal power plants and for the creation of several heating networks in Antwerp and Limburg.
“Via this project we want to encourage young people to take the step towards Science and Technology. There is a need for structural focus on engineering and science in education and a good cooperation between education and businesses. Only this way we are well on our way to respond to the demand for skilled technical personnel from the market in the long term. And only this way we can stimulate the engineering talents of young people. We also want to introduce students to an important, sustainable type of energy for the Kempen and Limburg. We do not have the earth as a precious inheritance, but we are renting it from the people who come after us.” Says Jan Hendrickx, Managing Director at Voka KvK Kempen.
Unique STEM project
“Given the strong social relevance of this future-oriented project and the need to further intensify the foundation for new technologies, VITO is committed to create a STEM project on deep geothermal energy”, says Dirk Fransaer, Managing Director at VITO. From the very beginning of the drilling activities on the Balmatt site, VITO has involved schools from all education networks and STEM classes in the project. “The story of deep geothermal energy and heating networks in the broad sense provides starting points in a variety of disciplines and is a school example of lifelike, contemporary and sustainable learning”, says project coordinator Swa De Schutter. “The huge enthusiasm and willingness of schools to cooperate created the demand for class visits and we soon realised it is a unique opportunity to let them learn about these technologies and infrastructure.”
Kick-off experience days
Right from the start it was clear that creating awareness for this type of energy and inspiring young people is an important task. “In the coming years the need for technically skilled people to design and create geothermal energy plants and heating networks will rise. Think of pipe fitters, welders, scientists and engineers. The class visits offer schools a unique opportunity to learn on site and to stimulate interest. This is how we want to get education, employment and entrepreneurship on the same page with regard to ‘Geothermal energy for STEM”, explains Ludwig Caluwé, deputy for economy and innovation.
Students in year 5 and 6 Biotechnical Sciences at Kogeka Geel and students in year 6 car technology of TISP in Mol were present at the kick-off. They were the first to experience a visit to the Balmatt site. An interesting and educational experience.
Thanks to grants from the Province of Antwerp and support by VOKA Kempen, these class visits can take place. VITO is responsible for the technical and scientific development of the programme and the support for the participating schools in the realisation of STEM projects. VITO has made its rooms available, furnishes them and guides the people of GoodPlanet Belgium who will give the groups a tour.
Schools who are interested in discovering this wonderful type of energy can register for a visit via www.goodplanet.be/geothermie-voor-stem.