Sunday, February 10, 2008

MIT Study of Geothermal Energy Potential

How could I have missed this one...?

from the Cryptogon:

Geothermal Power Could Meet World’s Annual Energy Needs 250,000 Times Over

August 6th, 2007

Amount of taxpayer money that the U.S. Government has allocated to this deep, “hot rock” geothermal research: $2 million.

Amount of taxpayer money flushed down the toilet of U.S. military operations in Iraq PER DAY: $200 million.

Via: Yahoo / AP:

Scientists say this geothermal energy, clean, quiet and virtually inexhaustible, could fill the world’s annual needs 250,000 times over with nearly zero impact on the climate or the environment.

A study released this year by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said if 40 percent of the heat under the United States could be tapped, it would meet demand 56,000 times over. It said an investment of $800 million to $1 billion [Or the costs associated with fighting the Iraq war for five days—Kevin] could produce more than 100 gigawatts of electricity by 2050, equaling the combined output of all 104 nuclear power plants in the U.S.

“The resource base for geothermal is enormous,” Professor Jefferson Tester, the study’s lead author, told The Associated Press.

But there are drawbacks — not just earthquakes but cost. A so-called hot rock well three miles deep in the United States would cost $7 million to $8 million, according to the MIT study. The average cost of drilling an oil well in the U.S. in 2004 was $1.44 million, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The United States led the way in demonstrating the concept with the Los Alamos geothermal project at Fenton Hill, N.M. The project begun in the 1970s demonstrated that drilling 15,000 feet deep was possible and that energy could then be extracted.

But the project came to a halt in 2000 when it ran out of funds. Meanwhile, the MIT report said, problems encountered in testing have been solved or can be managed — such as controlling how the water flows underground or limiting earthquakes and chemical interactions between water and rock.

Backers in the United States hope government funding will increase as oil and gas prices rise. But Steve Chalk, deputy assistant secretary for renewable energy, said the Department of Energy won’t spend more money beyond the $2 million it has already allocated to hot rock technology.

However, he said the MIT study, which was funded by the Department of Energy, serves as a basis for studying the idea further.

Major energy companies, including Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. and American Electric Power, told the AP they are following the research but not investing in it.

“This is an interesting technology for Chevron and we are currently evaluating its potential,” said spokesman Alexander Yelland.

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