geothermal.jpgIt may be a small country but Iceland has big ambitions in China. Icelandic energy company Enex, which is working on the world's largest geothermal district heating project in Xianyang, Shaanxi province, is looking for more opportunities to use its geothermal know-how in China.

Iceland Review reports that Enex is planning to help construct a geothermal heating system in China ten to 12 times bigger than the one in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavík.

The Xianyang geothermal heating system is the first project of the newly established Shaanxi Green Energy, which is a JV between Shaanxi Geothermal Energy Development Co. (CGCO) and Enex China. Iceland's largest bank Glitnir, previously known as Íslandsbanki, is one of the three main shareholders in Enex China.

The first phase of the scheme, which covers a new housing area with more than 100,000 inhabitants, was officially opened in December. In successive phases it will expand to serve up to 400,000 inhabitants, making it the largest geothermal district heating utility in the world.

Iceland has been a pioneer in the utilisation of geothermal resources for over seventy years. Enex argues that China's considerable potential in this green energy is only beginning to be tapped and China has the potential to rapidly dwarf the geothermal system that heats Reykjavík, the Icelandic capital.

Zhao Zhengyong, the first assistant governor of Shaanxi recently visited Iceland to discuss cooperation on energy issues among other areas. Zhengyong said the next step will be cooperation on hydrogen research and that China's premier Wen Jiabao is personally interested in the countries' cooperation on energy issues.

Glitnir opened a representative office in Shanghai in 2006 to serve the growing number of Icelandic and Norwegian companies establishing or planning to establish operations in China and Asia, particularly in sectors such as food, sustainable energy and shipping.

The bank is also keen to jump aboard China's property bandwagon and its first just investment is a JV with Sinopec covering a residential development in in the heart of Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning province. The 230,000 sq metre project is scheduled to be completed in two years and is one of the largest residential projects in Shenyang.

Reflecting the growing Icelandic interest in China , the Icelandic Business Forum was established last month in China. The forum's 20 members include Glitnir, Enex, Icelandair and other Icelandic companies already operating in China.

More on the Xianyang's geothermal ambitions in this Time story.

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