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Renewable Energy From a Volcano

Using geothermal energy to create power and heat is nothing new, but some researchers working near the Newberry Volcano in Oregon are taking a slightly different approach to harnessing this naturally occurring energy source. They are pumping water (375 gallons a minute) 10,000 feet into the ground, and plan on using the superheated water to power turbines.

This enhanced geothermal engineering (EGS) process artificially creates hydrothermal reservoirs, and AltaRock Energy is hoping the idea takes off, claiming it could cover up to 10% of America’s energy needs.

The downside: it’s nearly twice as expensive as traditional geothermal projects. And it also could cause earthquakes.

For the most part, these minor quakes occur deep underground and aren’t strong enough to be felt on the surface. However, in 2006, a similar project in Basel, Switzerland run by Geopower Basel (which used much higher pressure) sparked much larger quakes that resulted in $9 million in damages and criminal charges against the company’s founder.

Reno, NV-based Ormat Technologies was the first company to connect an EGS system to the U.S. electrical grid in April. In addition to the Newberry project, there is a Calpine demonstration project underway at The Geysers in Middletown, CA.

AltaRock claims its processes are much safer, and the Newberry facility stands as one of the largest EGS projects going, potentially generating 10 megawatts of energy. It has also generated more than 200 tiny earthquakes.

Source: POWER Magazine

About Brian Albright

Brian Albright is a contributing editor to Digital Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@digitaleng.news.