Artificial geothermal sites

2008-07-03

in Economics, Science, The environment

Geothermal energy has generally been seen as limited to areas lucky enough to have hot water bubbling to the surface. Iceland, for instance, manages to produce about 19% of its electricity and about 90% of the heat for homes from geothermal sources (though they also manage to have higher per capita emissions than France or Spain). The Philippines manages to generate 25% of its energy from geothermal sources. One intriguing suggestion to broader the applicability is to create by design what plate tectonics has sometimes produce by chance. The idea is to drill two shafts into hot dry rock, pump cool water down one, and exploit the hot and high-pressure water coming up from the other. If successful, such techniques could make geothermal energy dramatically more widely available. One estimate holds that 100 gigawatts worth of engineered geothermal could be created in the United States by 2050, at a ‘commercially acceptable price.’

There are problems, of course. Our drilling expertise mostly relates to porous oil-bearing rocks: not the more solid sorts that would be between the shafts. There are also concerns that building artificial geothermal sites will destabilize the surrounding land. A project in Switzerland apparently caused a small earthquake back in 2006.

Hopefully, the technology will prove viable in some areas. The more renewable power options we have, the less we need fossil-fuel powered plants to balance the grid. Furthermore, the more different types of renewable energy are in use, the more resilient the system is to climatic changes and other shocks.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan July 3, 2008 at 6:14 pm
Ashuri July 4, 2008 at 10:58 am

Geothermal Makes Me Hot

Having asked both the American ambasador and the Canadian ambassador about their role in bringing this technology with the areas of North America which could utilize Icelandic advancements in this area they were both uninspiring in their responses. Northern British Columbia, specaifically the Nass Valley has vast lava fields reminiscent of Icelandic geography as do areas of California. I know of some aboroginal companies in Canada that have sought to use this technology but further investment is difficult ot obtain as there is a high start-up cost but then an eternal renewable benfit.

Speaking of the eternal, congratulations for obtaining the adamantine chains.

You’ll make the golden handcuffs look good.

Also you may want to watch the South Park episode where they go to Ottawa to meet the new Prime Minister a la Wizard of Oz. I nearly peed myself.

Ashuri July 4, 2008 at 10:59 am

Have just been typing for the past three hours, me not spell so good. But I do look good in a pencil skirt, no doubt thats why they keep me on.

Milan July 17, 2008 at 9:19 am

There is one, maybe up to three tops, geothermal projects underway or on the drawing board in Canada, but the federal government — beyond providing a 1 cent production tax credit — doesn’t seem too interested. Instead, according to Sierra Geothermal CEO Gary Thompson, billions of dollars are being committed to back clean coal and carbon capture/storage technologies while country’s such as Germany, which has a similar geography to Canada, are forging ahead with enhanced or “engineered” geothermal systems that make geothermal power production possible in less conventional locations. The U.S. is also heading in this direction, most recently expressed by a planned $90 million investment in enhanced geothermal from the Department of Energy.

Milan July 17, 2008 at 9:19 am

The passage above is from the ‘Clean Break’ blog.

. September 9, 2009 at 11:31 am

Reykjavik Energy is providing the holes in the ground into which the CO2 will be injected. The firm is also providing the CO2 itself. This CO2 is, ironically, a by-product of geothermal energy, which is normally thought of as an “emissions free” technology. There is, however, a lot of carbon dioxide underground, and when you drill for superheated water to turn your turbines, you often release it. The plan is that instead of being released, the gas will be redissolved in cooler water and injected to a depth of up to 800 metres, into suitable basalt formations where, the hope is, it will react to form calcite or dolomite.

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