A £250,000 Challenge Fund has been launched to explore the roll-out of initiatives similar to existing schemes where warm groundwater is used to generate electricity.
Geothermal energy meets the heating and hot water requirements of almost 90 per cent of buildings in Iceland although this is largely down to the island’s location on a volcano belt.
Mr Ewing said: “Over the last few years we have developed a better understanding and appreciation of the geothermal resource under our feet.
“I have taken the advice of the Geothermal Energy Expert Group to build on the findings of a study undertaken in 2012-13 by supporting exploration of the significant potential for geothermal energy in naturally occurring groundwater and the water collecting in our abandoned mines.
“Now is the time to take the experience of housing projects in Shettleston and Fife and take the first steps towards the development of a delivery model which reduces carbon emissions, is self-sustaining and is economically viable.”
Scotland’s Midland Valley features a network of abandoned mines in many areas, a report into the country’s geothermal potential found last year. These are now flooded and could play an important role in future in energy supply, providing access to thermal reservoirs.
Small-scale housing projects in Glenalmond Street, Shettleston, and Lumphinnans, Fife, use water from disused mines to provide the heat for members of the local community.
The Challenge Fund is open to organisations working together to benefit local communities across Scotland.
Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Heating is our biggest source of climate emissions and geothermal energy can play a major part in replacing fossil-fuelled heating.
“We already know that there is potential to deploy geothermal energy on a very wide scale in Scotland This new funding is very welcome and will help good proposals get moving and attract further investment.
“Different techniques will have different impacts but geothermal energy is clearly worth serious investigation, and it is great that the Scottish Government is taking the lead in making this happen.”
Heating is estimated to account for over half of Scotland’s total energy use with an estimated £2.6 billion a year spent on this by householders, as well as businesses and other organisations.
The maximum grant award available for each feasibility study is £50,000 with a deadline of 30 April.
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