03 January 2008

"Enhanced Geothermal": Abundant Clean Sustainable Energy Available 24h Every Day

Geothermal energy is a virtually unlimited source of renewable power, which--unlike solar--is available 24 hours a day, year round. "Enhanced Geothermal" is a relatively new approach to commercial power generation, that is set to change all the rules for geothermal power:
To-date geothermal systems have relied on existing underground reservoirs of geothermally heated water, which they have tapped with wells that bring this heated water up, under pressure, using the steam to drive an electric turbine. This technique is cost-effective, but limited to the relatively rare areas where geology has delivered a source of naturally heated water fairly close to the earth’s surface....Enhanced geothermal is another ballgame entirely. Instead of finding ready-made reservoirs of geothermally heated water, the developer looks to “mine the heat” present at various depths throughout the earth’s crust, and bring the water to this heat by creating (or connecting) enough fractures and cavities beneath the earth to allow a sufficient volume of water to be injected to power a turbine.

...According to a study done two years ago at MIT [ed: 14MB pdf], there are over 100,000 exajoules of potentially exploitable geothermal energy in the earth’s crust - by comparison, the entire human race only consumed about 500 exajoules of energy in 2007 (an exajoule is approximately 1.o5 quadrillion BTUs - a convenient coincidence since back-of-the-envelope calculations can pretty much interchange exajoules and quad BTUs).

Petty at Altarock was quick to point out this entire resource cannot be accessed - but she agreed with the MIT study that somewhere between 2,300 and 23,000 gigawatts could be commercially tapped in the USA, depending on the level of research and funding enhanced geothermal technologies receive. When one considers 1,000 gigawatt-years is equivalent to 30 quadrillion BTUs - it is clear that enhanced geothermal technology could be a huge opportunity.
EcoworldSo according to Altarock, a conservative estimate of "enhanced geothermal" power available to the US is 2300 gigawatts--the equivalent of 2,300 new nuclear power plants. Imagine what the US could do with the electricity from 2,300 new nuclear plants. There would no longer be any question about where all the electricity for converting transportation to EVs would come from. No more brownouts in California--where the state government decision-making apparatus apparently runs on hallucinogens.

Stay tuned.


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Blogger Towards infinity said...

see http://www.geothermal.ch/ unfortunately it caused earthquakes of some intensity and thus public aproval for the project (first geothermal power plant) has kinda taken a hit.

Already in operation is geothermal heating and warm water in the precinct where i live.

Sunday, 06 January, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Fascinating data, TI (C).

Seismic complications could be quite serious in some locations.

On the other hand, with sufficiently sophisticated knowledge of seismic mechanisms, one might use a similar technique to relieve seismic stress safely.

There is much yet to learn about this planet.

Sunday, 06 January, 2008  

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