Tapping into geo-thermal energy

One of Budapest’s most important tourist attractions has substantially reduced its carbon footprint by making use of abundant supplies of geo-thermal water for its heating requirements. In so doing, it has not only helped the environment but also reduced its energy bills.

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Insulated pipes being installed as part of the project to heat Budapest Zoo with thermal water from a nearby spring Insulated pipes being installed as part of the project to heat Budapest Zoo with thermal water from a nearby spring

Until recently Budapest Zoological and Botanical Garden was almost entirely reliant on expensive and sometimes unreliable supplies of Russian gas to meet its heating requirements. But a recently completed ERDF-funded project has enabled the Zoo to take advantage of its closeness to a source of geo-thermal water 1 000 metres under the ground.

For over a century, this medicinal spring has supplied thousands of litres of hot water per minute to the neighbouring Széchenyi Baths, one of Europe’s largest and most famous health spas. When the water reaches the Earth’s surface it has a temperature of around 72º C and has to be cooled to 40º C before it can be used in the bath’s thermal pools. 

Reduced use of natural gas and electricity

Until the project was completed, the water was cooled at the baths using an electrical system. But the installation of a heat exchange plant means that much of the excess heat in the water can now be transferred for use in the Zoo’s 26 buildings, which include separate heated housing for birds, elephants, monkeys and giraffes – many of which require to be maintained at tropical or sub-tropical temperatures.

The result of the project has been substantial savings in energy use by the Zoo, which now uses far less gas for heating, as well as the Széchenyi Baths, where less electricity is used to cool water. During the milder months of the year, in spring and autumn, the new system almost fully replaces the use of fossil fuel energy sources in the Zoo. During the winter months, natural gas is used in combination with geothermal energy to heat the Zoo. Diversifying the Zoo’s energy sources has also meant improved energy security for the Zoo.

Greenhouse gas emissions slashed

Project manager Miklós Persányi said that the project had been highly successful in making use of thermal energy that would otherwise be wasted. The project is expected to lead to a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions of over 500 tonnes a year and will also lead to the Zoo’s energy bills being reduced by up to 20 %, saving at least EUR 1.3 million over the course of a decade.

“At a time of ever-increasing energy prices, this is an important additional resource for us. At the same time it is a climate conscious project which is good for the environment because of the carbon reduction.”

- Professor Dr Miklós Persányi, Project Manager and Director General of Budapest Zoological and Botanical Garden

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Heat Supply of Budapest Zoological and Botanical Garden by the Thermal Water of Széchenyi Bath” project was HUF 314 918 061 (approximately EUR 1 049 727), of which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributed HUF 188 950 837 (EUR 629 836) from the Operational Programme “Central Hungary” for the 2007-2013 programming period.

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