Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Geothermal from "dry hot rocks" as an abundant baseload energy resource?

Interesting video .. Geothermal energy demonstration project in Australia where they've developed an improved geothermal production process.

Unlike most "alternative" "clean" electricity resources, geothermal is great for "baseload". That is, wind or solar power is intermittent and would require massive electricity storage systems to be a proper replacement for coal plants. The advantage of coal plants is they run all day long every day all year long. The modern energy miracle includes the electricity always being there all day long every day all year long.

"Baseload" power is those electricity resources that run all the time. This doesn't mean there isn't a place for solar because it's peak of production is in the afternoon when the peak demand occurs. But for Solar electricity to provide the baseload means somehow storing electricity gathered during the day to spend that electricity at night.

I have a couple quibbles about the video ... Mainly, where does the water come from? And their description of the process sounds like hydraulic fracturing, but in this case meant to gather steam rather than gather natural gas.

This demonstration project is installed way out in the Australian Desert. It shows them pumping water underground, the water heats up and returns as steam, to run geothermal turbines, and the steam is then vented to the atmosphere. This means the plant is sucking down water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, in a desert. Where will the water come from?

It's hydraulic fracturing ... clearly .. because the video describes having created a horizontal area from which they gather steam.

Finally I've gathered from other geothermal projects there are sometimes toxic chemicals coming from underground carried by the steam.

All that said - it could very well be a valuable and valuable electricity production resource.