The key to green electricity production in America lies in the profitable, accessible generation of renewable energy.
For many, this means increased reliance on solar power, the most obvious, affordable and available option. However, there are various other types of green energy out there, which is the reason behind ignorance of geothermal resources.
There are three simple reasons for this. The energy is out of sight below our feet, it can be costly to gain access, and the technology isn’t there to take full advantage. The good news is that a new project in California is underway to correct some of these issues.
Geothermal Energy Is A Crucial Issue In California
There is a bold aim in California to generate half the electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Right now, geothermal energy makes up just 6% of the total power general in California. This is not using the heat source to its full potential.
According to an estimate, there is enough untapped energy in the Western states to cover half of the current generation for the whole country. There is no doubt that geothermal energy is an interesting, beneficial way of producing green energy.
There is a clear need to make Geothermal energy more attractive as an investment opportunity in the US. This would then diversify the types of green energy in use.
This is where Berkeley Lab comes in. The California Energy Commissions Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program recently offered funds of $2.7 million to the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. These researchers will be working with Calpine Corporation. They are currently the largest commercial operator at The Geysers.
One of the problems with geothermal comes in need for technological advancements.
Investors need proof of a reliable source of energy. Seismic sensors can provide images on underground water flow. This is why Berkeley created a network of portable seismic recorders over a 5 square kilometer section of The Geysers.
This area is crucial for the future of geothermal as it is the largest field in California. This network should provide high-resolution tomographic images of water flows and energy resources. If developers know when the water and energy are going, it can be better used to our advantage.
Flexible Power Generation
The other problem comes in the integration of geothermal power with other forms of energy production. There are hopes for a more flexible model of geothermal production that could aid and supplement wind and solar.
This energy could fill the gaps when solar and wind fail for a more reliable output. This is great in theory, but not so much in practice. There are stresses placed on the systems for rapid increases and decreases depending on the supply of the wind and solar. This demand can cause mechanical issues and mineral deposits in the wells.
There can be significant improvements with better technological developments in this area. Berkeley is currently developing T2WELL, to look at water flow and heat transfers. There is also TOUGHREACT, to simulate corrosion and damage.
The other problem is that it is not seen as an economically viable option compared to other approaches.
It is not just about the technological issues here; it is also about the cost. These new projects could provide greater reassurance over costly drilling ventures. There would be more peace of mind that an investment will pay off.
At the moment, geothermal operators can create three wells for $7 million dollars each. A more efficient well would reduce the need to drill elsewhere, leading to a significant reduction in costs.
In the end, this is the deal-breaker in the industry. Investment in geothermal energy is as much a business opportunity as an environmental one.
Geothermal energy projects have the potential to put this resource on the map – literally and figuratively.
There is no doubt that the power and potential are down there. We just need that visual, missing link to plot the wells and bring it out.
With a greater understanding of geothermal energy and its potential in electricity generation, better investments are possible. These projects could offer the proof that it is accessible and useful alongside other renewable sources. This means that there is the chance that investors may be more willing to commit.