More Hot Rock technology
Following on from the innovative use of abandoned mine shafts in Holland to produce geo-thermally heated domestic hot water here’s some recent news of Google’s major investment in a potentially groundbreaking (pardon the deliberate, if poor, pun) method of using the natural heating power of the planet to provide massive amounts of hot water, on tap, so to speak.
Google, through it’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, has announced a multi-million dollar investment in a break-through energy technology called EGS (Enhanced Geothermal Systems). The traditional approach to large-scale geothermal relies on finding naturally occurring pockets of steam and hot water. The EGS system replicates these conditions by fracturing rock, circulating water through the system and using the resulting steam to drive a conventional turbine.
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,
according to Dan Reicher, Director of Climate and Energy Initiatives for Google.org.
There is a very interesting Google Earth overlay here: http://www.google.org/egs/ showing the extent of the US Geo-thermal resource. And here, an MIT-led panel backs ‘Heat-Mining’ as a key source of energy for the US..
We’ve determined that heat mining can be economical in the short term, based on a global analysis of existing geothermal systems, an assessment of the total U.S. resource and continuing improvements in deep-drilling and reservoir stimulation technology,
said panel head Jefferson W. Tester, the H. P. Meissner Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT.
Google’s ‘Renewable energy Cheaper than Coal’ initiative (RE<C), which is the driving force behind this investment in EGS, has some other interesting projects on the go, including plug-in vehicles and a 1.6 megawatt solar installation. More info here.
And more on the plug-in motors here, if you like that sort of thing:
The West of Ireland would be an ideal location for a geo-thermal array of this type because contrary to our wild, wet, cold and windy reputation, the west coast is actually one of the warmer parts of our island and it seems that the sunny South-east is a bit chilly under the surface!
Courtesy of the RIA website and a presentation given by Dr. Burkhard Sanner of the European GeoThermal Energy Council in Brussels to the ‘Where will Ireland get it’s Energy’ conference in Novenber 2007, we can see the heat flow densities throughout Ireland here.
It would also seem that we have the technology to make it happen, West of Ireland grown, as it happens, in Sligo based company, LotusWorks, and another West of Ireland based company involved in geothermal energy, this time in Iceland, Moore Group’s neighbours ABB.
Earlier this year a consultation process was initiated by Minister Eamonn Ryan on the options for geothermal energy generation so hopefully we will see some movement on this issue soon.