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 Google.org'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 Google.org 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 Google.org 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."