NYT: Clean Evergy beneath our feet
The US has enough geothermal energy to power the entire country. Some are trying to unlock it by using techniques from the fracking boom.
“No one else is willing to take the risks we can take,” said Joseph Moore, a University of Utah geologist who leads FORGE.
In a sagebrush valley full of wind turbines and solar panels in western Utah, Tim Latimer gazed up at a very different device he believes could be just as powerful for fighting climate change — maybe even more.
It was a drilling rig, of all things, transplanted from the oil fields of North Dakota. But the softly whirring rig wasn’t searching for fossil fuels. It was drilling for heat.
Mr. Latimer’s company, Fervo Energy, is part of an ambitious effort to unlock vast amounts of geothermal energy from Earth’s hot interior, a source of renewable power that could help displace fossil fuels that are dangerously warming the planet.
“There’s a virtually unlimited resource down there if we can get at it,” said Mr. Latimer. “Geothermal doesn’t use much land, it doesn’t produce emissions, it can complement wind and solar power. Everyone who looks into it gets obsessed with it.”
Traditional geothermal plants, which have existed for decades, work by tapping natural hot water reservoirs underground to power turbines that can generate electricity 24 hours a day. Few sites have the right conditions for this, however, so geothermal only produces 0.4 percent of America’s electricity currently.
But hot, dry rocks lie below the surface everywhere on the planet. And by using advanced drilling techniques developed by the oil and gas industry, some experts think it’s possible to tap that larger store of heat and create geothermal energy almost anywhere. The potential is enormous: The Energy Department estimates there’s enough energy in those rocks to power the entire country five times over and has launched a major push to develop technologies to harvest that heat.