TOPIC 'Geothermal Energy' on Mar 27, 2012 (CDT)
New Geothermal Project Gives Hope for Further Expansion
Geothermal is not a new concept by any means. A growing number of HVAC companies in the US are providing customers the opportunity to invest in geothermal.
Though the traditional energy grid may still be used to power the fans and push liquids in the system, the drastic reduction in energy required means that small solar or wind units could pick up the slack at reduced cost. Less well known is the idea of using geothermal to produce significant amounts of energy directly to the grid.
The US has taken the lead in this effort so far with geothermal plants producing about 15 billion kilowatt hours per year. The technology has so far relied on steam released through cracks in the Earth's crust, such as those at The Geysers in California.
New technology, called Enhanced Geothermal Systems is being funded now. It has the potential for use across the states, and engineers believe it is capable of producing far more energy at a lower cost than even natural gas. Of course, there is a catch. No one is really sure if the system will work yet.
Elements of Enhanced Geothermal
Newberry volcano in Oregon, a dormant giant, is the site of the latest project. With millions being invested by the likes of Google and other corporate sponsors, it is off to a great start.
As with the widely used traditional model, steam will turn a turbine to produce electricity. Since Newberry is not producing steam actively, the idea is to build the plant on the volcano and pump water down to molten rock beneath. the steam will then rise to the plant and power the turbine.
Several problems exist in the design. How much water will it take to start the process? Assuming the water can be caught after condensing and fed back into the ground, are there hazardous chemicals that need to be removed? Is it possible that the steam rising to the surface will cause minor earthquakes, like the USGS recently admitted fracking does? How can the steam be directed up to where the turbines are placed?
These problems and more are currently being explored, and the answers may spell a new energy-rich future for the US and other nations.
Current resource audits say that the US has the capacity to generate 20% of energy needs from traditional geothermal
. This new design could see that estimate doubled or more.
Project to pour water into volcano
Geothermal energy in the Unitet States