The Forgotten Renewable: Geothermal Energy Production Heats Up

Posted: February 5, 2018 by oldbrew in Energy, fracking, geothermal, innovation
Tags: , ,


California is – somewhat optimistically perhaps – looking to phase out its use of fossil fuels, and equally reliable alternatives need to be found and developed.

Experts say the American West is full of geothermal reservoirs whose energy could power millions of homes. But extracting that energy isn’t easy, as NPR explains.

Three and a half hours east of Los Angeles lies the Salton Sea, a manmade oasis in the heart of the Mojave Desert.

It was created in 1905, when a canal broke and the Colorado River flooded the desert for more than a year. The Sea became a tourist hotspot in the 1950’s, perfect for swimming, boating, and kayaking.

But now, people are coming here looking for something else.

Jim Turner is the chief operating officer of Controlled Thermal Resources, an energy company from Australia. On a hill overlooking the Salton Sea, he points out a patch of land that will someday house his company’s first power plant, named Hell’s Kitchen.

“We’re standing on top of what is probably the most robust geothermal resource in the United States,” he explains.

Geothermal energy uses the earth’s natural heat to create electricity. While there are several different ways to accomplish this, the most common is to take super-heated water from geothermal hot spots and pipe it to the surface. It then turns into steam and spins a turbine, which generates electricity.

It’s completely renewable, and generates clean energy around the clock, unlike wind and solar.

“You think of renewable energy as a house, solar is the roof and the wind is the walls,” says Jason Czapla, principal engineer for Controlled Thermal Resources. “But geothermal’s the foundation, and what California did is it built the walls and the roof, but on wild, windy days it blows too much rain on the roof [and] that house falls down. Well, the Salton Sea is this opportunity for California to fix that.”

The company wants to develop 1,000 megawatts of electricity here over the next decade. They say that could power about 1,000,000 homes. And for a state that’s aiming to get half its electricity from renewable sources, that’s no small number.

“Our development coincides with the state’s target, 2030 being the ultimate goal getting to 50 percent,” says Czapla. “And our goal is to build up that 1,000 megawatts and help them increase the renewable energy portfolio.”

But it’s not just California that’s got these resources.

Continued here.
– – –
The Forge Project: Enhanced Geothermal Systems

  1. take care
    “In the 1950s a large area of land north of Taupo suddenly began to get hot and emit steam. Craters of boiling mud emerged, along with other geothermal phenomena. And so the Craters of the Moon was born.

    The event was triggered by the lowering of underground water pressure by a nearby geothermal power station. Superheated water rose to the surface, escaping through any vent it could find.”

  2. spetzer86 says:

    Just what CA needs, another potential source for earthquakes:

  3. JB says:

    “Allyson Anderson Book directs the American Geosciences Institute, a nonprofit network of geoscientists around the country. She says that geothermal energy has been historically overlooked as a renewable energy source, to the point that it is sometimes referred to as the “forgotten renewable.”

    Book says there are social and technical challenges that have kept geothermal from becoming a major player in the energy field. The technology is complex, and plants are expensive to build.”

    I imagine the social challenge has been local populations not wanting the area despoiled as with wind power towers and the like.

    Geothermal has not been a “forgotten” or an “overlooked” energy source. There were several locations in the late 70s and 80s in the American west where it was explored. One of them was within 150 miles of my home. The result was then it was “complex” and “expensive to build” and had high maintenance cost. It was given up in part because NG power plants outperformed it economically. The West is not like Iceland where there is “running hot water” on the ground, as it were. Even there, it only amounts to 25% of total electrical production.

    For CA it will be too little too late by 2032.

  4. Roger Andrews says:

    Salton Sea geothermal? Been there, done that.

    [reply] thanks Roger – interesting blog post and comments

  5. Kip Hansen says:

    Geothermal, done right, is a nearly inexhaustible source of heat, thus energy.
    Those who warn of releasing subterranean pressure should note that the usual way to recover that heat is to run a loop of pipe down and back up, like the loop that goes through your household furnance — you heat up the water in the pipe, you don’t bring up that water from far below —
    Hot springs, if dependable, have been used as home heating for more than a century in New York state and other locales.
    The mantel of the Earth is hot, and is not cooling off any time soon.

  6. oldbrew says:

    — At the surface, the water flashes to steam, or it heats a working fluid that produces vapor.
    — The steam/vapor turns a turbine to create electricity.
    — The original geothermal water is recycled into the reservoir

    Want to learn more about how an EGS System works?

    Enhanced Geothermal System animation [~40 MB download]

  7. chrism56 says:

    No ford prefect you are wrong. Craters of the Moon was there long before Wairakei started – even people like Rudyard Kipling went to the Karapiti blowhole which was part of it. When Wairakei started, The small area (about 100 hectares) heated up and became more active but within twenty years, .that had died down.
    The increase in activity was due to the very large mass withdrawal causing a 25bar drawdown in the deep fluid pressure so a steam cap formed. – something that isn’t done nowadays as consents demand near full reinjection of the fluid.

  8. stewgreen says:

    AFAIK there’s the 1980’s geothermal project in Southampton centre which puts in 18% of the heat into the local heating scheme, which is 70% gas.
    So not really that successful.
    The next thing was to be Eden Project ..said to using fracking type process to shake up the rock to create the open pores to recover recover the heat
    but since the 2015 announcement I haven’t seen news ..
    I guess they didn’t get the EU grant they wanted.
    Eden Project already has a massive subsidy per visitor anyway of tens of pounds.

    Wiki says there’s a project in Stoke, but I see now the geothermal is billed as an addition to be added on
    \\ 18 Dec 2017 Pipe installation is the first stage of a pioneering #districtheating network in Stoke-on-Trent. Around 700m of pipes are being laid underground.
    The first phase will be powered by a gas boiler
    … but the network is due to be linked to a #geothermal plant by 2019//

    As ever with green gimmicks there’s been a subsidy/grant
    “Stoke-on-Trent City Council has secured £19.75 million ($30m) of Government funding for the project,” locals newspaper March 2015

  9. stewgreen says:

    \\ She says that geothermal energy has been historically OVERLOOKED as a renewable energy source, to the point that it is sometimes referred to as the “forgotten renewable.”//
    ..Yeh right companies/companies spend billions each year on energy development … but they OVERLOOK magic solutions.

    If a media narrative is too wow to be true, then it’s probably not true.

  10. oldbrew says:

    What the ‘dangerous warming’ crackpots might like to do…

    The Outlandish, Scary Schemes Being Studied to Cool the Planet

  11. michael hart says:

    Formally, geothermal is not a renewable, in that it is not replenished as fast as we might like to use it up. The average geothermal energy flux is pitifully small. Just like fossil fuels, we might consume the low-hanging fruit, but the long term supply outlook is insufficient compared to our long term demand needs.

    Yes, some regions of the planet have lots, some regions have almost zero. But most of it can never be used.

    I certainly don’t object to geothermal being exploited where it makes economic sense to do so, but to describe it as a renewable is disingenuous and falls into the green-think of an easy solution that has apparently been overlooked. No, it wasn’t overlooked, greenfaeces, it just doesn’t cut the mustard most of the time in most places.

  12. Jim says:

    And geothermals biggest problem, few investors. And it’s scalable. Push, single generators, on a closed loop system, drill a little further, superheat the steam further, push two generators, add valves, push four generators, without a lot of investment. So, are we there yet?