The heat energy contained below the earth’s surface is about 100 billion times more than current world energy consumption. Geothermal power—literally “earth heat”—taps into underground reservoirs of steamy hot water, which can be piped to the surface to drive turbines that produce electricity. That feat was first accomplished in Larderello, Italy, on July 15, 1904.
Prime geothermal conditions are found on less than 10 percent of the planet, but new technologies dramatically expand production potential. One new approach targets deep underground cavities and adds water to create hydrothermal pools where they do not currently exist. Care must be taken, as the means to access these cavities can create micro-earthquakes.
With subterranean resources flowing 24-7, without interlude, geothermal production can take place at all hours and under almost any weather conditions. Geothermal is reliable, abundant, and efficient. While drilling is expensive, the heat source itself is free. According to the Geothermal Energy Association, 39 countries could supply 100 percent of their electricity needs from geothermal energy, yet only 6 to 7 percent of the world’s potential geothermal power has been tapped.
Technical summaries for each solution will be available May 1, 2017.