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 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.

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