How next-gen geothermal could boost the future of energy
By juicing geothermal with CO2, a team of scientists hope to overcome limitations to this potentially powerful form of renewable electricity
By Garrett Hering
Harnessing naturally occurring heat trapped between layers of rock below the earth's surface, geothermal power plants are capable of supplying clean, renewable electricity around the clock. This valuable trait should position geothermal power as an important asset within emerging sustainable energy systems that rely heavily on intermittent renewables such as wind and solar.
But despite more than 50 years of commercial activity, geothermal power's path has been more rocky than disruptive.
That's largely because the medium- to high-temperature sites required by conventional geothermal power plants - known as hydrothermal sites - are limited. In the United States, which leads the world in geothermal power with an installed operating generating capacity of about 3,790 megawatts as of the end of 2013, development is highly concentrated in the West, primarily California and Nevada. This adds up to just 0.33 per cent of the country's electric generating fleet, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) most recent infrastructure update. Among electric fuel sources tracked by FERC, only waste heat and "other" account for less.
But there may be a solution to geothermal power's geographic limitation, which could open up the way for this subterranean resource to play a much greater role in energy systems of the future.
First they understate current geothermal potential, then they misstate the reasons it hasn't been adopted.
Their solution? Build more coal plants near geothermal sites (which they define as also bearing NG), do a CCS operation, then use the CO2 to extract geothermal heat for turbines. No thanks, I'd call that a smokescreen.