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Welcome to the hot Paris underground. It's not what you think.

Powerland Paris: Digging deep for green energy
July 14, 2011 - 3:16pm

PARIS, France — Orly is the second biggest airport in Paris, but it leads the way in green technologies in the city.

ADP, the company that runs Orly as well the Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris’s largest, has just geared up a cutting-edge heating system that relies on geothermal power. It is a rare alternative energy initiative in a country where cheap and plentiful nuclear energy has left little appetite for green technologies.

But Paris has a unique potential to foster renewable energy. The capital sits on a giant well of steaming hot water called the Dogger Well. ADP taps into that reservoir located 5,500 feet underground.

The water is naturally warm because it’s so far below the surface and closer to Earth’s heated core.

Here's how it works: Hot water is piped up and used to heat the airport terminals. It then goes back underground at a cooler temperature, where it will, of course, once again be heated up the natural way.

The process will cover a third of the airport’s heating needs. ADP also plans to cut its carbon emissions by 9,000 tons every year.

Despite its potential, most Parisian companies have shied away from geothermal power because it typically takes 10 to 20 years to become profitable.

Some individual homes already use geothermal power, but ADP is the first large Parisian firm to invest in it. The company said they were only able to hit the ground running thanks to governmental funding. They also met technological hurdles, even calling on oil rig experts to help drill deep down.

Experts say the Dogger Well could provide eco-friendly heating to houses and businesses for several decades. So with so much hot water sitting under the Paris region, the prospects are good for spreading geothermal power around the city, and perhaps, across France. 

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