Shallow geothermal utilisation at low temperatures and depths of up to 400 meters - based on ground-source heat pumps and groundwater heat pump systems - represents a key technology for heating and cooling amongst renewables. The project Shallow Geothermal Energy Planning, Assessement and Mapping Strategies in Central Europe - GeoPLASMA-CE addresses this topic and intends to foster the market share of these techniques for heating and cooling. 

The project aims at transferring knowledge from scientific experts to public authorities and related entities in the participating countries. In addition, it intends to implement shallow geothermal use in local and regional energy planning strategies in six specific pilot areas.

GeoPLASMA-CE will produce a transnational, web-based platform for knowledge transfer, which covers decision support tools for the visualisation of geothermal potentials and risks of conflicts. It furthermore implements a communication platform in order to transfer the joint knowledge to other regions of central Europe.  GeoPLASMA-CE will achieve detailed energy planning strategies for the selected six pilot areas based on state of the art management concepts of shallow geothermal methods. The project will also produce harmonised transnational standards regarding the planning, assessment, management and monitoring of shallow geothermal use in central Europe.

Mission and vision

GeoPLASMA-CE aims to foster the share of shallow geothermal use in heating and cooling strategies in central Europe. Geothermal methods are a locally available, endogenous heat source not affected by emissions, which is a present and future key technology in order to reduce emissions hazardous to climate and air quality. The project intends to create a web-based interface between geoscientific experts and public as well as private stakeholders to make the existing know-how about resources and risks associated to geothermal use accessible for territorial energy planning and management strategies in Central Europe.

What is shallow geothermal energy?

Shallow geothermal energy (also: near surface geothermal energy or SGE) is the heat that is available or rather stored in the ground. It is available everywhere and anytime, regardless of daytime or season. In central Europe, the temperature in a depth of 20 metres amounts to a constant temperature of roundabout 10 °C. Every 100 metres deeper the temperature increases by 3 to 5 °C. It can be used for cooling and heating purposes (deep geothermal energy also for electricity production). The heat of the ground is usually extracted in closed loop systems, rarer in open loop systems. Geothermal energy is renewable, ecologically friendly and very space-saving at the surface.

Closed loop systems

Closed loop systems use pipes made of polyethylene for heating and cooling. They can be installed vertically down to several hundred meters (tube systems) or horizontally meandering in depths of a few meters (collectors). There are also more compact collectors combining vertical and horizontal energy extraction. Furthermore, foundation piles of buildings are also used for geothermal installations. Several tubes, piles or collectors can be combined to install higher capacity systems. GeoPLASMA-CE focuses on closed loop systems using vertical tubes.

All systems use water – most of the time with a little bit of glycol – which continuously circulates in the pipes. Below the surface the fluid absorbs heat from the ground and flows back to the top. A heat exchanger transfers the fluid’s heat to the heat pump and its refrigerant fluid. Compression raises the temperature of the refrigerant fluid in the heat pump from around 10 up to 60 °C. After passing the heat exchanger the fluid from the pipes returns to the ground and a new cycle begins. For cooling in summer, the process is reversed: the heat is extracted from the building and carried back to the ground.

Open loop systems

The process of open loop systems is very similar to closed loop systems, but it uses groundwater directly as heat source. No additional water or fluids are needed. In an extraction well ground water is pumped to the surface, where it transfers its energy via heat exchangers to the heat pump. Afterwards the water is reinjected to the groundwater horizons using an injection well.

Scheme SGE use


GeoPLASMA-CE in numbers






Pilot Actions



Pilot area vienna
Area: 220 km2
Population: 339,356

AT flag

GeoPLASMA-CE in Vienna (Austria) focuses on the challenges of geothermal use of groundwater in the city districts 21 and 22. The pilot area covers parts of the groundwater body Marchfeld, which already host many shallow geothermal applications. Growing numbers of single installations will influence each other and prevent a sustainable use of groundwater for heating and cooling. 

What is our plan to overcome this challenge? Find out here...

Vienna Pilot area

Vienna Pilot area

Pilot area ljubljana
Area: 275 km2
Population: 287,000

SI flag

The objective of the project activities in Ljubljana pilot area (Slovenia) is to quantify spatial distribution of shallow geothermal potential for utilisation with ground source heat pumps and integrate this information into development and management strategies of the city with a goal to meet environmental objectives set in the Ljubljana city Sustainable Energy Action Plan 2010 - 2020.

What is our plan to achieve this? Find out here

Ljubljana pilot area

Ljubljana Pilot area

Pilot area Krakow
Area: 326,9 km2
Population: 762,448

PL flag

Krakow city pilot project area (Poland) occupies an area of approx 326,9 km2 and covers the area within the administrative border. Krakow is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland with population of 762,448 (as on 30th of June 2016), comprised ca. 2% of the population of Poland and 23% of the Lesser Poland Voivodeship respectively. Krakow is situated by the Vistula (polish Wisła) River. The city stretches from the North to the South approx. 18 km, whereas from the West to the East approx. 31 km. Point of the highest elevation within the city limits to 383 m above sea level.

Find out more here...


Krakow, photo by Ziarno, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl, via Wikimedia Commons

Pilot area bratislava
Area: 603 km2
Population: 450,000

SKV flag

AUT flag

Pilot area Bratislava (Slovakia, Austria) includes Bratislava city and the transboundary part of Austria in the vicinity, including town Hainburg with the total evaluated area of 603 km2 (Slovak part - 367 km2 and Austrian part 236 km2). From geological point of view pilot area is diverse including hard rocks (granites, limestones, dolomites) and non-consolidated sediments (gravels, sands, calys). Estimated population in the pilot area is around 450,000 inhabitants (434,000 in Slovakia and 16,000 in Austria) including urban and rural areas resulting in different population density and different energy needs. The energy market, regulation, support and consumer behaviour is different in both countries and so having its own specifics that will be evaluated within the project. At the end this will lead to proper further recommendations delivered to policy makers and stakeholders.

 Find out more here...

Bratislava pilot area

Bratislava Pilot area

Pilot area Wałbrzych / Broumov
Area: 1,245 km2
Population: 240,000

PL flag

CZ flag

The transboundary Wałbrzych / Broumov pilot area (Poland, Czechia) covers 1,245 km2 in the Sudety Mts and is characterized by very complex geological structure comprising several units made of metamorphic, volcanic and sedimentary rocks. This mountainous area with around 240,000 inhabitants, once a coal mining industrial district, is today focusing on tourism based on local landscape attractions and clean air. These conditions imply to enhance utilization of ground source heat pumps as energy sources in the investigated area.

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Wałbrzych – Broumov pilot area

Geological map of Wałbrzych – Broumov Pilot area

Pilot area Vogtland / W – Bohemia
Area: 1,900 km2
Population: 97,355

DE flag

CZ flag

The Vogtland / W – Bohemia pilot area (Germany, Czechia) is a transboundary area located in the SW Saxon part of the Vogtland region and extends to the most western part of Bohemia. The pilot area is especially suitable for using geothermal energy, since the Eger valley corresponds to a lithospheric uplift which causes geothermal gradients twice as high as in the surrounding regions. The deeply circulating water in this tectonically active region forms thermal and mineral springs. The usage of this balneal water is in conflict with the geothermal usage, such that a detailed study of land-use conflicts is necessary, when a strategy of geothermal energy supply is established. The central part of the pilot area close to state border consists of a mountain range. In its foothills, many small towns and villages are located on the both sides of the border. The infrastructural development of this region can significantly benefit from the usage of shallow geothermal energy.

Find out more here


Vogtland landscape, photo by Karina Hofmann



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Start Date

1 july 2016

End Date

30 june 2019

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