Mining Heat from the Earth? New Technology Shows Promise

By Mark Clayton writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, February 7, 2007 | Go to article overview

Mining Heat from the Earth? New Technology Shows Promise


Mark Clayton writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Here's one vision for easing America's energy and emissions woes: Hundreds of drilling rigs are deployed throughout the country. But they're not prospecting for oil; they're looking for underground rock hot enough to produce steam-driven electricity. The potential? Enough power to provide 10 percent of US electricity by 2050 - with near-zero emissions of greenhouse gases.

That's the promise of "enhanced geothermal systems," or EGS, says a recent report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.

There are just two major catches. First, about $800 million in research and development is needed over the next decade to make the drilling technology cost-effective. Second, the Department of Energy is trying to kill the program by ending its funding.

On Monday, the DOE unveiled a $24.3 billion fiscal 2008 budget with more funding for nuclear power, alternative fuels, and science programs - but nothing for geo- thermal.

"The department will conduct our own internal review and assessment of the [MIT] report and its recommendations," DOE spokesman Craig Stevens said in an e-mail. But geothermal energy has "already entered the mainstream," he added. The DOE aims to fund new technologies.

Some parts of the technology are indeed mature. For years, conventional geothermal technology has been tapping mostly hot springs formations in a few isolated locations in the Western US, providing about 0.3 percent of the nation's electricity. The newer, enhanced approach identified by MIT could be developed virtually anywhere.

"It appears that large areas of the United States are suitable for future geo- thermal exploitation in the near term that have not been considered in the past," states the recent report, sponsored by the DOE and written by an 18-member panel convened by MIT. "Most of the key technical requirements to make [it] work economically over a wide area of the country are in effect, with remaining goals easily within reach."

The report, released Jan. 22, corroborates other reports - by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory last year and the Western Governors Association in 2005 - of a massive "deep geothermal" resource.

"We should give strong credence to the MIT report," says Dan Reicher, former assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy in the Clinton years. "With these deep resources, we have the potential to access new energy over most of the country, including the East Coast. This is the moment to be adding to, not cutting, the geothermal R&D budget."

Since the 1970s, a few EGS systems have been tested in a half- dozen places in the US, and test systems are now being developed in France and Australia. The EGS promise has grown along with advances in oil and gas drilling technology and US-industry research partnerships.

Unlike drilling for oil, often done in softer, permeable rock, the enhanced geo- thermal approach requires boring down one to six miles into solid rock. Power plants would inject water down one well, passing it through crevices in the hot rock, then extract steam through another well. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Mining Heat from the Earth? New Technology Shows Promise
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.