Casual Friday — Google gets hot

Depending on what news you’ve been following lately, you may (or may not) have heard about Google’s latest initiative. The company’s philanthropic arm is investing a bit over $10 million (US) into geothermal energy. Traditionally, geothermal energy has involved tapping hot springs or geysers. Google is funding research into a more-widely-applicable form of the technology — injecting water into hot rocks, then bringing the resulting steam back to the surface to run turbines that generate electricity.

The system is essentially closed, so it’s non-polluting. That’s not to say, though, that it’s without its drawbacks. To date, these “enhanced geothermal systems” (sometimes called closed systems) have only been built on experimental scales. Oh, and they occasionally trigger earthquakes, too.

Here’s a video from Google explaining the concept:

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2 Responses to Casual Friday — Google gets hot

  1. Mitch P. says:

    This is certainly an interesting technology, though I suspect there will be some unforseen technical challenges and environmental consequences. The water will doubtless pick up a lot of minerals while being super-heated, and will likely come up very alkaline (or acidic depending on the local geology.) I suspect that there will be significant corrosion problems in the system, and problems with mineral deposits on turbines or heat exchangers. If there are leaks, you could see significant releases of this very hot mineral-laden water into the environment, etc.

    Still, it shows enough promise that it is certainly worth looking into.

    (Full disclosure, I work for Google, but am not involved in any of the RE<C projects, and in no way speak for the company.)

  2. GeorgeBright says:

    It’s a nice, clean way to get energy… My local city, Santa Rosa, has taken the idea one step further and found a real win-win solution: they take the city’s treated wastewater (nearly 3 billion gallons a year), pump it 20 miles to the Geysers geothermal field and inject it into the ground to re-energize the fading steamfield.

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