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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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.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

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