Print 77 comment(s) - last by iNGEN.. on Aug 27 at 6:04 PM

EGS, an incredibly promising form of geothermal, involves drilling down to "basement rock", the hot outer layer of the crust, and pumping water down into it to produce steam. Just a tiny percentage of the underground heat capacity of the U.S. could power the nation thousands of times over.  (Source: AltaRock)
New energy source could offer 2,500 times nation's power needs, according to MIT

The world of alternative energy is a confusing one filled with choices.  There's nuclear, solar, wind, and biofuels (such as algae).  Each technology has its own unique advantages and disadvantages.

One technology that's too often forgotten in the mix is geothermal energy.  With interest in alternative energy at an all-time high, the geothermal energy business is seeing a rebirth.  From harnessing volcanic steam deposits to prospecting America's many geothermal sites, many promising projects are currently underway.

Perhaps the most promising source of geothermal is a brand new method called Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS).  Where traditional geothermal involves finding naturally occurring steam pockets in the hot layers of rock beneath the Earth's crust, EGS skips the troublesome prospect and makes its own steam, by drilling down the hot rock, cracking it, and then pumping water into the cracks to form steam.  The result -- instant power virtually anywhere in the country.

According to MIT, just 2 percent of the heat between 3 and 10 kilometers beneath the crust of the Earth in the continental U.S. contains enough energy to produce 2,500 the amount of power our country produces yearly.  Literally, just EGS power from the U.S. could power the world.  And these depths are all within the reach of current drilling equipment.

Google is very impressed by the promise of EGS.  Google has decided to invest $10.25M USD to help startups develop the technology as part of its philanthropic arm's initiatives, which aim to produce alternative energy power at rates cheaper than coal.  The Google investment will not only cover the continuing development and deployment of the technology itself, but also the development EGS information tools, advanced geothermal resource mapping, and promotion of geothermal public policy on a government level.

Dan Reicher, Director of Climate and Energy Initiatives for states, "EGS could be the 'killer app' of the energy world. It has the potential to deliver vast quantities of power 24/7 and be captured nearly anywhere on the planet. And it would be a perfect complement to intermittent sources like solar and wind."

The latest Google funding for EGS goes to two companies and a university.  AltaRock Energy, Inc. is one of the recipients and will receive $6.25M USD to help it actualize its EGS vision.  The second investment of $4M USD goes to Potter Drilling, Inc., which is exploring new methods of drilling cheaper and techniques for drilling into deep, hard rock, a technology critical to EGS.  Finally Google will deliver a grant of $489,521 to Southern Methodist University Geothermal Lab to aid it in its projects of updating geothermal maps of America.

Dr. Larry Brilliant, executive director of also delivered praise for the new direction.  He states, "Innovation is the path to massive quantities of cleaner, cheaper energy. The people we're funding today have a real shot at lowering the cost of EGS, and bringing us closer to our goal of Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal."

Mr. Reicher quickly adds, "EGS is critical to the clean electricity revolution we need to solve the climate crisis, but EGS hasn't received the attention it merits. That's why we're pressing for expanded support from government and increased investment from the private sector.  EGS is critical to the clean electricity revolution we need to solve the climate crisis, but EGS hasn't received the attention it merits. That's why we're pressing for expanded support from government and increased investment from the private sector."

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By aurareturn on 8/19/2008 6:38:37 PM , Rating: 1
I hope this will amount to something. Sounds really good.

Some people will argue that it has faults but when we're killing the planet as it is, we should definitely fund more projects like this.

RE: Hope
By Spuke on 8/19/08, Rating: -1
RE: Hope
By daftrok on 8/19/08, Rating: -1
RE: Hope
By Spuke on 8/19/2008 7:18:20 PM , Rating: 2
Killing the planet just doesn't mean trees, it means animals and people too.

1. Black children in urban areas get killed by gang violence.
2. Car crashes kill more youths every year than any other method.
3. 3.8 million people died in the Congo civil war.
4. 2 million people died from AIDS last year.
5. Britney Spears lost custody of her children.

I didn't ask for a list of atrocities and injustices. I asked for a list of how WE are "killing the planet". You and I both know what he means by "killing the planet" and I want these clowns to back up their statements.

RE: Hope
By heffeque on 8/19/08, Rating: -1
RE: Hope
By Alexstarfire on 8/26/2008 10:01:17 AM , Rating: 1
In denial of what? The dude he replied to didn't list one thing that's killing the planet. He just listed things that are killing people/animals/plants on the planet. Wipe out the whole surface of the planet and it's still not dead. This planet will be dead when it either gets destroyed, like breaking apart, or whenever it's stops producing heat in it's core.

Though are two things that humans simply aren't capable of.

RE: Hope
By Lord 666 on 8/19/08, Rating: -1
RE: Hope
By omnicronx on 8/20/2008 10:46:34 AM , Rating: 2
You are being pretty naive here, while I am one of the first to say that global warming probably does not exist, it is pretty childish to say that the human race is not effecting the world we live in at an ever growing pace.

I firmly believe that the mother nature has a self defense mechanism in which it can repair itself to a certain degree. At the same time I think we are starting to push the limits of how much damage we can do without permanent repercussions.

It is fact, not a bunch of non scientific observations that the ocean is one of the many areas in which even the smallest amount of human interference, can greatly effect ocean ecosystems, which in tern could greatly effect ours.

Contrary to most peoples beliefs, there are only a limited amounts of food sources in the ocean (for surface mammals and fish), and for the most part, is a seasonal event for many of these creatures. It has been greatly documented that the rise in ocean temperature has been effecting plankton population(they gather in the northern parts of the ocean in what is a yearly phenomenon that can be seen from space).

Not only does the plankton end up feeding a huge portion of the fish and mammal population (this includes mammals eating the fish that ate the plankton) but plankton releases more oxygen into the atmosphere than all of the worlds rain forests combined(it also filters out C02 during photosynthesis). It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out what could happen if an oxygen source like this is seriously depleted.

From the countless amounts of runoff water being pumped into the ocean, to the disturbance of the life abundant coral reefs, we are without a doubt effecting the world we live in.
Now whether or not mother nature will be able to repair the damage we have done is a totally different story, one which is very hard to prove, regardless of the side you are on.


RE: Hope
By masher2 on 8/20/2008 10:57:17 AM , Rating: 2
> " At the same time I think we are starting to push the limits of how much damage we can do "

The global land and sea biomass -- the total amount of all living creatures -- is well-documented to be growing at a substantial pace.

When all one reads in the mainstream media is how badly we're "damaging a fragile planet", it's not hard to form an opinion such as yours. But the facts don't bear out such a conclusion.

RE: Hope
By omnicronx on 8/20/2008 12:06:15 PM , Rating: 2
I have done my research thank you very much, and the total amount of living creatures has absolutely no bearing on my post. There are many factors that can be attributed to the increase in the amount of increase in all living creatures. I also find it interesting that you mention that life in general has increased, but you fail to mention that large mammals and bird life is decreasing.

It the rapid demise of Plankton concerning (it is not increasing!). As I have previously stated, the gathering of plankton is a yearly event that can be seen from space, we are not talking about an estimation based solely on statistics here.

Even nasa's own study's have shown that there have been a shift in cloriphil levels from the north to the south.
chlorophyll concentrations decreased in the northern high latitudes while chlorophyll in the low latitudes increased.
While at first glance one could argue that the plankton are merely 'just moving', this is not the case. Sea life including plants in southern areas have been increasing, which in tern will increase sea life levels, but plankton needs colder waters too survive, so it is not the source the increasing chlorophyll levels in the south.

What makes matters even worse is that there are two distinct kinds of plankton, zooplankton (tiny animal like) and phytoplankton (tiny plant like) both of which heavily depend on one another(zooplankton releases the fertilizer like substance that can be see as a blanket of green from space). Scientists can only estimate the total plankton population with satellite imagery, but they can not estimate the levels of two sub species. What they can do is draw conclusions by the plankton levels by looking at other creatures in the sea, that specifically depend on the plankton to survive.
Small filter feeders, like scallops, are growing at slower rates, especially in areas farther from the shorelines. Large filter feeders are in SEVERE trouble, (like the Northern Right Whale). These trend,s and others, indicate the presence of less plankton in the oceans.

This is an excellent site that outlines what plankton is, how they are measured, and the repercussions that could possibly occur. You will find that this is not a biased article, as it lists facts for both arguments.

RE: Hope
By wordsworm on 8/20/2008 9:22:19 PM , Rating: 2
You remind me of those pigs from Animal Farm that go around saying that there are increases in everything, when clearly the opposite is true. You're so out of touch with reality it's quite astonishing. Why don't you go talk to some old fishermen to ask them if there are more or less fish in the sea? I used to think all Republicans were like this - until I observed the governator in action - I never expected him to be a great politician. Yet, I can't help but think that you're a Republican spokesman for all the fictitious counter-spin that you spout.

But, when one's mother is also one's half sister, it's easy to be a half-wit.

RE: Hope
By masher2 on 8/19/2008 8:07:56 PM , Rating: 3
> "1) Endangering of Polar Bears and other arctic animals due to the melting of ice caps"

The ice caps began melting over 7,000 years ago, after the end of the last ice age. They will melt whether we are here or not. Polar bear populations are on the rise in any case, and recent research has revealed that polar bears survived the last interglacial period during a period in which no ice caps existed whatsoever.

> "2) Thousands of lung disease related deaths in China due to heavy air pollution"

And many here in the US as well. Unfortunately, environmentalists are keeping those polluting coal plants active by denying us the only energy source currently able to supplant them -- nuclear.

> ") Wasting of materials and other acts of suspicious origins: "

I don't know what an "act of suspicious origin" entails exactly, but I don't see how wasting materials translates to "killing the planet"

> "Millions of innocent civilians dying due to black market trade of weapons "

The largest number of deaths in Africa are from malaria -- a disease environmentalists worsened dramatically by banning DDT. AIDs runs a close second and -- despite what you might have read in the tabloids -- it's not due to US biowarfare research.

Among violent deaths, the largest such event in recent memory was the Rwandan genocide. The majority of those murdered were killed with nothing more than knives and clubs.

RE: Hope
By slunkius on 8/20/08, Rating: -1
RE: Hope
By Ringold on 8/20/2008 1:56:21 AM , Rating: 2
If nuclear works, should he ignore it because repetition somehow makes it less true, or because its not as fashionable? :P

RE: Hope
By slunkius on 8/20/2008 6:40:35 AM , Rating: 1
many things work. one of them could be geothermal. so it would be nice to hear about geothermal advantages and disadvantages, not the regular "nuclear is the future, greenpeace sucks, yada yada"

RE: Hope
By mdogs444 on 8/20/2008 7:07:15 AM , Rating: 2
not the regular "nuclear is the future, greenpeace sucks, yada yada"

because you're having trouble seeing past the facts? Nuclear is, and should be, the focus of the future. And Greenpeace does suck.

RE: Hope
By FITCamaro on 8/20/2008 3:30:44 PM , Rating: 2
I've no problem with geothermal. Like nuclear, the energy potential is enormous and unlike other sources of clean energy (besides nuclear) it does not suffer from a low availability factor. Unless center of the Earth suddenly cools, it will provide power literally forever provided the plant is maintained.

RE: Hope
By masher2 on 8/20/2008 10:36:08 AM , Rating: 2
> "many things work. one of them could be geothermal"

Very few things work for power generation at present, when one defines "work" as generating energy at a cost that doesn't incapacitate the economy.

I've said many times that geothermal power shows a great deal of promise. But nuclear technology is a proven solution, not something that may or may not pan out at some misty point in the future.

RE: Hope
By heffeque on 8/19/2008 7:19:51 PM , Rating: 2
I think some people need to watch the video "The Story of Stuff", or at least take a glance at it :-/

RE: Hope
By KernD on 8/19/2008 6:56:27 PM , Rating: 2
You want an argument against it, here it is: If you tap the power of the earth's core too much you will reduce the life expectancy of the planet itself. Now your realy talking about killing the planet!

It would probably take a vast usage of this technology, but still doable. The earths core produces a bit of heat from radioactive material in it, but it's mostly emptying itself slowly and will one day be a cold dead rock, unless the sun destroys it first.

Seriously now, this sounds like a nice idea, a friend of mine has a geothermal system to warm and cool his house. It costs allot to build, but you save energy from less clean sources for the rest of your life.

RE: Hope
By Solandri on 8/19/2008 7:05:25 PM , Rating: 2
This and the geothermal heating/cooling systems are different. The heating/cooling system you're describing just uses the ground as a heat sink/source. In summer, you run your AC and it takes heat from the inside and dumps it in the air outside. The geothermal system dumps the heat into the ground rather than the air. Since the ground is cooler in summer than the air, it ends up being more efficient than dumping into the air.

In winter it's reversed. The ground is warmer than the air. So instead of the heat pump having to pull in heat from the cold air, it can just pull it in (more easily) from the warmer ground. The system only needs to be buried 15-50 feet underground to be isolated from the seasonal temperature changes in the air. It is not an energy source, it's just a more efficient system.

The system described in the article is tapping into the heat of the Earth itself several km underground. It's an energy source.

RE: Hope
By KernD on 8/19/2008 7:16:39 PM , Rating: 2
I know it's a bit different, but it's still the same principle than the winter use of the house version, they just have to go much deeper to get all the heat necessary to boil water to build up pressure to spin the dynamo.

RE: Hope
By Solandri on 8/19/2008 7:24:29 PM , Rating: 2
They are not a bit different, they are totally different. The shallow geothermal system requires energy to operate, even in winter. The deep geothermal system produces energy.

The shallow geothermal system is actually based on an ancient Roman air conditioner. They would bury several hundred feet of pipe underground with the inlet some distance away, and the outlet in their house. On their roof they would install a dark-colored vent. The sun would hit the vent, heating the air, causing it to rise, and thus removing the air from the house. The negative pressure inside would draw air from the pipe.

In summer, the air traveling through the pipe would be cooled by the surrounding ground. By the time it got into the house, it was substantially cooler than the ambient air temperature. (It would also work as a heater in winter, but I suspect tossing a few logs onto the fireplace produced more heat.)

RE: Hope
By KernD on 8/19/2008 7:40:42 PM , Rating: 2
That's funny I was under the impression that a pump consumed energy, I guess I must be wrong...

You use energy to run many power plants, it's just that the returned energy is much larger.

RE: Hope
By JoshuaBuss on 8/21/2008 9:32:50 PM , Rating: 2
now you're just grasping at straws.. a geothermal heat pump ( ) takes some electricity and the naturally constant temperature of the ground to greatly reduce the cost to heat and cool your home.

a geothermal power plant ( ) produces energy for external use.

They are completely different systems and although they both rely on the earth's heat, they use it in completely different ways and for completely different purposes.

I am a big proponent of both technologies though.. especially the former since it's already proven and in pretty widespread use.

RE: Hope
By Alexstarfire on 8/26/2008 10:07:57 AM , Rating: 2
Those are some damn smart Romans.

RE: Hope
By HrilL on 8/19/2008 7:12:59 PM , Rating: 2
While there is logic in your point it is not likely to have much impact at all. Think of how much heat is lost by natural volcanic eruptions that are happening all over the planet. Under the ocean there is probably thousands of times more heat being lost compared to if we were using this for our main power source. In any case this is still a great source of power that will give us time to get fusion power going. And if we switch to fusion then your fears of cooling the core and even more moot.

RE: Hope
By SeeManRun on 8/19/2008 7:20:27 PM , Rating: 3
Its just like the Ocean. Its so big how could we small humans possibly affect it!

RE: Hope
By KernD on 8/19/2008 7:29:18 PM , Rating: 2
I know and have already said that's it's unlikely to be drained so fast it will change anything. I also know and has already also said that the heat is already going out.

I just like to point out that there are no magic solution and no infinite source of energy. Solar power has it's limits in surface area you can use, also the sun will one day explode, and that is proof that Fusion is also limited, but at a much larger scale.

RE: Hope
By daftrok on 8/19/2008 7:13:56 PM , Rating: 2
I believe that for households, doing the following can save bundles in the long run.

1) Energy efficient bulbs
2) Insulating water heaters
3) An attic tent to make sure no hot/cold air escapes up the attic (
4) Flat panel screens instead of CRT monitors, LED TVs and more energy efficient computers such as the HP s3500t or the Dell Studio Hybrid.
5) Pool cover to avoid running the pool cleaning system all the time. A cover keeps the pool warm during cold seasons and clean.

More expensive investments can be made for energy efficiency:
1) Hybrid cars for $20k or electric cars such as the Tesla 4-door sedan that's coming out in 2 years for $60k.
2) More energy efficient AC units and filters
3) Solar panels on the roof to cut down energy costs

This is something that every household should try to do at some point in order to cut down the incredibly high energy usage in this country.

RE: Hope
By FITCamaro on 8/20/2008 3:37:58 PM , Rating: 2
Nah man. Now our flat screen TVs are killing the planet too. There was an article here about it a few weeks ago.

RE: Hope
By JoshuaBuss on 8/20/2008 6:40:21 PM , Rating: 2
don't forget a geothermal heating and cooling system. that and basic insulation are the biggest home improvements you can make savings-wise

RE: Hope
By LyCannon on 8/19/2008 8:03:54 PM , Rating: 1
The earths core produces a bit of heat from radioactive material in it, but it's mostly emptying itself slowly and will one day be a cold dead rock, unless the sun destroys it first.

This is entirely incorrect. Heat generated from the earth is due to the massive amount of pressure placed on it by the the rest of the earth.

This heat radiates from the inner core to the mantle. By drilling 3 miles down, you are still in the mantle and place NO HARM on the core, which starts at around 6000km.

Please do a little bit of research before you make yourself sound like an ass.

RE: Hope
By LyCannon on 8/19/2008 8:04:26 PM , Rating: 2
RE: Hope
By masher2 on 8/19/2008 8:15:13 PM , Rating: 2
> "Please do a little bit of research before you make yourself sound like an ass. "

You might want to read your own links before you embarrass yourself. Allow me to quote:

The immense amount of heat energy released from gravitational energy and from the decay of radioactive elements melted the entire planet
The OP was correct. Radioactive decay is the primary source of ongoing heat energy in the core. The heat from gravitational energy is almost entirely a static quantity, added when the planet first formed.

RE: Hope
By itzmec on 8/19/2008 9:43:34 PM , Rating: 2
actually his statement was not entirely incorrect. the earth will one day be a cold dead rock. you should take your own advice.

you said:

"Please do a little bit of research before you make yourself sound like an ass."

RE: Hope
By Solandri on 8/20/2008 3:15:49 AM , Rating: 2
The pressure does not "generate" heat in the sense that new heat is constantly being generated. It generated heat way back when the Earth was first formed, and that's it. The pressure is not generating any more heat. It's just that with something the size of the Earth, it takes a really, really, REALLY long time for that heat to radiate out into space. When they cast the 200-inch Hale telescope mirror out of solid glass, it took several years to cool. So you can imagine how long it would take something the size of the entire planet to cool.

So the primary sources of heat energy within the Earth are that latent heat of formation, radioactive materials (radioactive decay and in the past, natural nuclear fission reactors), and the tidal pull of the moon (which will also slow down the Earth's day until it matches the period of the moon's orbit). Of those sources, only the last two are still producing heat.

RE: Hope
By masher2 on 8/19/2008 8:11:43 PM , Rating: 3
> "If you tap the power of the earth's core too much you will reduce the life expectancy of the planet itself"

While I admit you have a bright future at Greenpeace, I have to point out that the heat in the Earth's core would be sufficient to power all civilization for many tens of millions of years. Tapping the crust as suggested above wouldn't even measureably increase the rate of cooling of the core, though admittedly we might eventually cool the crust somewhat.

RE: Hope
By Captain Orgazmo on 8/19/2008 8:58:45 PM , Rating: 4
I think he was making an ironic statement. No matter what humans use a source of energy, someone will have a complaint. The very idea that we could cool the core of the earth down appreciably by drilling tiny holes into the crust is as ludicrous as the idea that we can drastically change the course of the earth's sun induced climate cycles by releasing biologically stored CO2 back into the atmosphere by burning coal and hydrocarbons.

RE: Hope
By k20boy on 8/19/2008 11:36:45 PM , Rating: 3
I don't know if you guys have heard of entropy. Anyway I'm an undergrad engineering student so I'm by no means overly qualified to describe it. However, there is a theory that entropy in the universe is always increasing if we consider the universe as an isolated system and thus will eventually lead to a "heat death" where we have a homogeneous distribution of thermal energy and no more work can be extracted from anything because energy transfer and work is all about potential differences. We are all doomed eventually (life will cease to exist in this scenario) so that is a moot point about the Earth loosing its thermal energy: it will and so will everything else...there is eternal truth in the statement "nothing lasts forever".


RE: Hope
By oTAL on 8/20/2008 1:28:37 PM , Rating: 2
There's hope. ;)
If you have some spare time you'll enjoy this:

RE: Hope
By Spuke on 8/20/2008 2:22:18 PM , Rating: 2
Awesome!!! Thanks.

RE: Hope
By iNGEN on 8/27/2008 6:04:27 PM , Rating: 2
I think it more likely we worry about the impact on the water cycle from all the "closed loop" geothermal plants that may be dotting the globe 100 years from now.

RE: Hope
By mattclary on 8/20/2008 10:30:34 AM , Rating: 2
The Moon, as it orbits, produces stress on Earth. I'm no geologist, but pretty sure this will keep the interior of the Earth hot.

Our measly cooling with this technology won't have any noticeable effect on the temperature of the core.

RE: Hope
By FITCamaro on 8/20/2008 3:48:37 PM , Rating: 2
You want an argument against it, here it is: If you tap the power of the earth's core too much you will reduce the life expectancy of the planet itself. Now your realy talking about killing the planet!

I really hope someone hits you in the head with something hard. It will hopefully knock the stupid out of you.

The Earth's core isn't changing until the Sun expands as a red giant and incinerates our planet. Even then the planet itself might survive as a burned chunk of rock with a still hot core(I don't know. I'm not a geologist). Likely the only thing cooling down the core will be the Sun exploding and turning our planet into a trillion pieces.

We could not even begin to hope to extract enough heat from the Earth to cool the center of it. Geothermal energy doesn't even make it into the mantle much less the outer core. Did you pay attention at all in Geology class?

RE: Hope
By Solandri on 8/19/2008 7:00:30 PM , Rating: 2
The big problem I see is that the companies in the best position to advance this technology are also the ones the environmentalists hate most - oil companies. They have the technology, research, equipment, and experience needed to drill down to the depths required to make this work.

So there's a real danger that we'll end up cutting off our noses to spite our face. If the government decides to give research grants for developing geothermal to oil companies, people will complain and we may end up burning a lot of money unnecessarily re-developing from scratch technology that the oil companies already have. If a test well doesn't work for some reason, there will be speculation that the oil company deliberately subverted the test to preserve its oil profits. The whole thing is going to be politicized to the point where you're not sure what to believe anymore.

RE: Hope
By ganjha on 8/19/2008 7:04:38 PM , Rating: 2
You could always talk to the Icelandic companies that have been running geothermal plants for decades, and have helped development in other countries as well.

RE: Hope
By Solandri on 8/19/2008 7:11:10 PM , Rating: 2
Iceland is not relevant. Iceland sits on a fracture in the Earth's crust so the heat is really close to the surface. In some places they didn't even need to drill, they just popped a spigot and turbine on a natural steam vent. The only similar areas in the U.S. are around volcanoes and natural hot springs. Last I saw, I think the estimate was that those areas could only provide 1%-2% of the electricity used by the U.S. (and that's if the public ever let such a thing be built in the middle of Yellowstone National Park).

The system described in the article would be applicable anywhere in the U.S., but would require drilling 3-10 km into the earth's crust. That's something the oil companies have been doing for decades.

RE: Hope
By ganjha on 8/19/2008 7:28:05 PM , Rating: 2
Actually one of the Icelandic energy companies did drill 2 Kilometers down in the Rhine valley in Germany as a proof of concept, although the energy from those five drills is just used fore heating. They have also been involved in projects in China and Yemen to name unlikely areas.

RE: Hope
By ganjha on 8/21/2008 5:54:15 PM , Rating: 2
Came across this:

RE: Hope
By KernD on 8/19/2008 7:47:30 PM , Rating: 2
Your right about the oil company having the equipment for this, they drill AND pump water in the ground to get the oil out.

RE: Hope
By voxelman on 8/19/2008 10:16:05 PM , Rating: 2
It appears the few of those commenting have read the MIT study.

It is easily found here:

One of the more interesting suggestions that it contains is the use of CO2 rather than H2O as a heat exchange medium. This will also serve to sequester the CO2. Also, they estimate that the cost of erecting a 100MW plant will be on the order of 8M dollars once the technology matures. The current estimated cost for a 600MW coal fired power plant in Iowa is 1B dollars.

RE: Hope
By Ringold on 8/20/2008 2:10:04 AM , Rating: 2
Given how much I've heard it costs to sink an oil well for oil exploration, 8M for drilling so deep in the crust seems a little starry-eyed.

However, it could be, in your example from Iowa, 20 times more expensive and still have price parity with coal.

By tc399 on 8/19/2008 10:09:59 PM , Rating: 2
There is a geothermal plant about five miles from me. It works fine, doesn't require much maintainance, and generates clean power 24/7.

It's just not that complicated. Water in, steam out and a turbine spins. It works, and there are no fuel costs or nasty nuclear waste. The technology exists, works, and should be essentially free. But the oil companies got the government to pass a law saying the power company has to buy electricity from the geothermal at the same price it costs them to run diesel and coal plants, which we have also. So it's just as expensive for us to get clean energy as dirty energy. The fix is in.

It's about money, greed and politics. It's not about clean, nearly free energy.

RE: Geothermal
By masher2 on 8/19/2008 11:14:34 PM , Rating: 3
> "The technology exists, works, and should be essentially free"

Eh? O&M (operating and maintenance) costs for a geothermal plant are far from free. For deep shaft HDR geothermal, they are currently much higher than nuclear or coal.

Additionally, geothermal generates a fair amount of emissions. While not nearly as high as those from a coal plant, there's a significant amount of sulfur and NO emitted from those deep holes in the ground. Finally, the process of liquid injection causes some degree of seismic instability in the surrounding region.

Geothermal has a great deal of promise. But its not a magic bullet.

RE: Geothermal
By andrinoaa on 8/20/2008 2:50:03 AM , Rating: 1
Onya, glowboys, it was only a matter of time, you couldn't resist. Could you?

RE: Geothermal
By mdogs444 on 8/20/2008 7:08:58 AM , Rating: 2
And you couldnt think of anything to come back with, right? Thats the typical result of not having anything to back up your "greeny" talking points with.

RE: Geothermal
By Spuke on 8/20/2008 2:39:20 PM , Rating: 2
Thats the typical result of not having anything to back up your "greeny" talking points with.
Don't let facts and reason interfere with their Utopian dreams.

RE: Geothermal
By wookie1 on 8/20/2008 2:35:37 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, I recall in "A View to a Kill" (James Bond movie) that I saw so many years ago that the villain was going to flood a fault to cause massive earthquakes. Seems very dangerous!

RE: Geothermal
By Ringold on 8/20/2008 2:27:50 AM , Rating: 1
So it's just as expensive for us to get clean energy as dirty energy. The fix is in.

Many people would see that as a huge plus; the "fix" provides a massive incentive, if it truly is as cheap as you suggest, to expand geothermal capacity as much as possible to maximize profit. In fact, you blame oil companies for this law, and yet they would be the ones to lose as utilities cut back on fossil fuel power to run much more profitable geothermal plants, based on your theory.

Indeed, if they had to charge you a low rate for geothermal, why expand it at all? The real problem here is government price controls in general.

I think you've spent too much time at perhaps DailyKos, as your logic falls over itself.

does the energy math work out?
By AmishElvis on 8/19/2008 8:39:18 PM , Rating: 2
Pumping water 2 - 3 miles down, then pumping it back up sounds like it would use a lot of energy. Have the companies involved posted any kind of rough energy cost / production estimates?

RE: does the energy math work out?
By Solandri on 8/20/2008 2:53:19 AM , Rating: 2
There's zero net mass transfer (the amount of water you pump down is equaled by the amount of water that comes up), so the only energy required is to overcome friction with the sides of the pipe. It's like a balanced see-saw - since the mass going up equals the mass going down, you can tip it either way with the slightest touch, you only have to overcome friction.

Currently existing geothermal systems are predominantly built on near-surface geothermal vents. If it were that easy, we'd all be using it right now like Iceland does. Unfortunately very few areas of the world have those, mostly near volcanoes. Iceland is basically one big volcano where an asteroid likely punched a hole through the thin crust where two plates separate. So it's difficult to extrapolate current geothermal station costs to deep well geothermal costs. Just drilling a deep well costs several million or even tens of millions of dollars.

Long-term I think geothermal is going to be the energy solution (preferable even to fusion, except for transportable power). It makes a lot more sense to me than solar and wind (and even hydro in some respects). But there are still a lot of engineering problems which still need to be overcome.

RE: does the energy math work out?
By marvdmartian on 8/20/2008 9:50:55 AM , Rating: 2
You do realize that all power plants have energy use of their own, right? That while a power plant might put 20MW into the power grid, it's likely generating 22-23MW itself, and then using a couple to run the equipment that keeps the plant going.

Really, the only time that it pulls from the power grid is during initial startup, until it's generating it's own power.

Oh, and while $10 million might seem like a lot of money to invest in a worth endeavor like this, I'd be willing to bet that Google spends darn near that much every year on office supplies! Come on, about putting out some REAL cash??

RE: does the energy math work out?
By mdogs444 on 8/20/2008 10:03:19 AM , Rating: 2
You don't think they would if they weren't worried of losing it? If it was really a fail safe plan, many companies would be investing billions and billions into it.

Fourier's Law...
By Mclendo06 on 8/19/2008 7:44:41 PM , Rating: 2
I haven't done any calculations to this effect, but I do want to voice one question/concern.

Is there a possibility that the water being pumped into the ground will cool the rock around it sufficiently that it would stop producing steam, or is the thermal conductivity of rock high enough that the region around the cool water being pumped in would be quickly driven back towards equilibrium? Basically, how much power could be drawn from a single point in the ground without cooling the rocks too much?

Just to compare a few numbers, the thermal conductivity of rock at water-boiling temperature appears to sit in the range of 2 ~ 4 W/(m K) (based on , look at P. 111) whereas for copper in the same temperature range, this value is 390 ~ 380 W/(m K). It just seems that heat would have a hard time flowing to the steam-generation region of the rock, meaning that the power that could be taken from a particular drill hole would be rather limited. If anyone would care to solve the 1D differential equation required to determine how much power could be extracted from a point (or small sphere if you must resort to numerics) surrounded by an infinite region of matter with gamma = 4 W/(m K) and ambient temperature of 500 C (this is probably a little generous and would be a best case scenario based on what I can tell about temperatures at that depth) I would be most interested in the answer. Figure water for the working fluid if you want to get into some tricky thermodynamics. I'm just too lazy to dig around for the solution to this problem right now.

RE: Fourier's Law...
By Mclendo06 on 8/19/2008 8:12:03 PM , Rating: 2
Okay, I decided to go look it up because some rough calculations can be done pretty easily. First, the result:

The energy flux (power) that is extracted from the steam-producing region is about 200 MW in the idealized case outlined below, so I suppose that this could be a viable means of producing energy.

Now for my gross oversimplification:
I assumed the energy-extraction region is a sphere with a 1 m radius and the ambient temperature is 500 C an infinite distance out. The worst assumption I made is that the temperature at the wall of the inner sphere is constrained to 100 C - meaning I assume that heat gets into the water way too efficiently (ignoring flux) and that the absolute maximum amount of energy possible is being sucked from this small region. However, even if the actual energy output is 1/20 what my back-of-the-envelope numbers are, you have a hole in the ground producing 10 MW of energy 24/7. Had my numbers said that you will get a few megawatts, I'd have serious doubts, but this seems at least feasible, although likely not nearly as good as my rough numbers above might indicate. Further input welcome...

RE: Fourier's Law...
By Solandri on 8/19/2008 8:51:14 PM , Rating: 3
It's been a while since I read up on this, but I seem to recall your concern being on of the problems. There were some ideas of finding an underground salt deposit, sending water to dissolve the salt and excavate a cavern down there, then using that increased surface area for heat exchange. Or to blast explosives down there to crack the rocks thus increasing the surface area that way.

The temperature of the water is not constrained to 100C. At those depths, the water pressure would be several hundred atmospheres (102 atm per km), raising the boiling point considerably. In fact one of the problems they were coping with was the water flashing into steam en-route to the surface. This would drive the turbine, but it would also push the water column back down. You have to keep the water pressurized until it hits the turbine. If you lose pressure containment, the flash steam could blow apart your piping at depth.

But like I said, it has been a while and my memory may be faulty.

By HrilL on 8/19/2008 7:02:30 PM , Rating: 2
My friend and I were talking about this about five years ago and thought it would be a great idea for a very profitable business once the initial investment is recuperated. We had the idea of drilling down to do it and also looked at the other alternatives but as college students and no connections to capital we saw it as a pipe dream. But it is nice to see other people think it’s a great way to get power.

By PLaYaHaTeD on 8/19/2008 7:50:52 PM , Rating: 3
...we saw it as a pipe dream.

Get it? Pipe dream? Get it?

Ba Dum Ching!

New Business Idea - DIY Thermal
By Lord 666 on 8/19/2008 7:53:42 PM , Rating: 2
While cost prohibitive for small single family homes, its a great possibility to have neighborhood EGS systems powering regional areas.

For large homes, mansions, palaces, hospitals, prisons, etc... its a great idea for uninteruptable power regardless of the weather.

RE: New Business Idea - DIY Thermal
By masher2 on 8/19/2008 8:18:08 PM , Rating: 2
A 2-10km drill cost several million dollars alone, in addition to the generating equipment required to extract energy. I don't see many mansions, hospitals, and prisons making an investment of that size, when they could accomplish the same for a thousandth of the cost with a small generator.

If this ever becomes practical and cost effective, it'll primarily be operated by major utilities.

By sonoran on 8/19/2008 8:39:46 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder if this could be used to cool the supervolcanic magma chamber building up under Yellowstone? There's bound to be a massive amount of heat energy built up in there.

RE: Yellowstone?
By mvpx02 on 8/20/2008 11:39:51 AM , Rating: 2
The temperature of magma is considerably higher than that of the rock this article is talking about. Also, magma flows continuously (convection currents): as magma at the top were cooled, it would sink and be replaced by warmer magma from below.

The task of trying to cool a super chamber such as the one under yellowstone is on the scale of something like trying to flatten the Rocky Mountains or fill in the Great Lakes.

Convection will pump the water
By joewein on 8/19/2008 10:47:12 PM , Rating: 2
Pumping water 2 - 3 miles down, then pumping it back up sounds like it would use a lot of energy. Have the companies involved posted any kind of rough energy cost / production estimates?

You don't need to pump water down, something called gravity will push it down ;-)

On the other hand, if the water boils down there, the generated steam would be lighter than water and its weight would not generate enough backpressure to keep the water in place: Water will flow down under its own weight, while lighter steam shoots out pushed by the weight of water.

If the water was not allowed to boil, the hot water would still be lighter than the cold water. You would have convection.

Either way I don't think you would need a huge pump to keep the heat flowing to the surface.

RE: Convection will pump the water
By Solandri on 8/20/2008 3:34:00 AM , Rating: 2
Heat transfer rate is proportional to the temperature differential. So pumping cool water down there will facilitate much faster heat energy extraction than relying on passive convection or steam percolation.

Left out of the article...
By masher2 on 8/19/2008 8:26:45 PM , Rating: 3
According to MIT, just 2 percent of the heat between 3 and 10 kilometers beneath the crust of the Earth in the continental U.S. contains enough energy to produce 2,500 the amount of power our country produces yearly
Sure, and the gravitational energy from falling rain can power the whole country a hundred times over. The problem in both cases is collecting and utilizing that energy cheaply enough. The potential energy from water is practical where nature has already collected it for us into a river. And -- so far, at least -- geothermal energy has only been practical where nature has already brought it close to the surface.

How much will this EGS-based energy cost? The article makes no mention at all, yet this is the critical point. We've been able to tap geothermal energy for decades, but usually its just not practical to do so.

By Leirith on 8/19/2008 8:12:54 PM , Rating: 2
I just heard an report on the radio about the Australian government investigating geothermal eneregy, with very similar capability reported. Supposedly 1% of the hot rocks here can provide 2,600x the energy consumed here yearly.

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