The Energy Page: GEOTHERMAL
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Largest Geothermal Project in US

Ball State geothermal map

Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana is in the process of installing the largest ground-source heat pump system in the country. It is not supplying just a single building, however. Rather, this is a campus-wide system that will provide heating and cooling for the entire University campus.

The system uses 3,600 vertical bores located in several fileds throughout the campus with more than 1,000 miles of piping for the heat transfer. The first phase of this project is nearing completion, with the system now providing heating and cooling to nearly half the campus.

The University expects to realize $2 million in annual energy costs through the use of the campus-wide geothermal system. Additionally, by removing its old boilers, the University says it will also reduce about 85,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually. Total cost for the project is around $70 million.


 

Project Investigating "Hot Rocks" Geothermal Energy Options

geothermal power plantGeothermal energy is often overlooked as the "other" renewable energy. Capping geysers to harness their energy is difficult, and the sites where these resources exist are not widespread. But companies are exploring new methods of obtaining energy from geothermal sources by stimulating accessible geologic formations to generate hot water and steam for energy production.

A demonstration project being run by AltaRock Energy is underway in the Deschutes National Forest near Bend, Oregon to explore the viability of this technique. AltaRock is using "hot rocks" and an approach called Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) for energy production. This process uses accessible geological formations which are hot enough to generate steam for power generation, but which are not naturally geysers. The system is meant to be closed-loop, with the water re-cooled and returned through the system, so that there is less impact on local water supply. However, the demonstration will use somewhere between 73 and 142 million gallons of water, so the company is also purchasing Deschutes River Conservancy mitigation credits to offset its water consumption during the project.

The process also calls for developing fracture zones in the rock, which may be too reminiscent of natural gas "fracking" for widespread acceptance of the technique. But, instead of an extraction process, the geothermal approach will be injecting water into the rocks. MORE


Marnoch Thermal Power: a new type of heat engine for tapping into lower temperatures

Marnoch thermal powerThe Geological Survey of Canada put out a research paper in 2010 that concluded the country has enough geothermal heat to power itself many times over.

The big question is how much of that heat can be economically tapped?

As a general rule, the hotter and shallower the resource the more economical it is to exploit based on current technologies. The higher the temperature the easier it is to extract the volume of heat required to spin a turbine and generate electricity.

But there aren’t many places in Canada, beyond northern B.C., Alberta and the Yukon, that have that right combination of temperature and depth. Everywhere else, you’ll have to drill deep—as much as 10 kilometres down—to find enough heat. That’s a deal-breaker with respect to cost and risk.

It’s also a nut Ian Marnoch of Port Severn, Ont., is trying to crack. For the past seven years the Ontario inventor has been developing a new kind of “heat engine” that he says can generate electricity more economically from lower-grade heat. And that heat could come from anywhere: the ground, the sun, or an industrial waste process. MORE


Oregon. volcano site of project to demonstrate potential to expand geothermal energy

newberry volcanoGeothermal energy developers plan to pump 24 million gallons of water into the side of a dormant volcano in Central Oregon this summer to demonstrate new technology they hope will give a boost to a green energy sector that has yet to live up to its promise.

They hope the water comes back to the surface fast enough and hot enough to create cheap, clean electricity that isn't dependent on sunny skies or stiff breezes—without shaking the earth and rattling the nerves of nearby residents.

Renewable energy has been held back by cheap natural gas, weak demand for power and waning political concern over global warming. Efforts to use the earth's heat to generate power, known as geothermal energy, have been further hampered by technical problems and worries that tapping it can cause earthquakes.

Even so, the federal government, Google and other investors are interested enough to bet $43 million on the Oregon project. They are helping AltaRock Energy, Inc. of Seattle and Davenport Newberry Holdings LLC of Stamford, Conn., demonstrate whether the next level in geothermal power development can work on the flanks of Newberrry Volcano, located about 20 miles south of Bend, Ore. MORE



 

Hawaii Inches Toward 100% Renewable Energy; Geothermal Resources 2-1/2 to 7 Times Demand

volcanoLocated as it is about 2,400 miles (3,900 km) WSW of San Francisco about in the middle of the northern Pacific, residents and businesses on the ‘Big Island' of Hawai'i pay a lot for energy. Imported oil has been the primary fuel, not only for transportation, but for generating electricity in the Hawaiian Islands.

The situation could be radically different, however. The Hawaiian islands are rich in wind, solar and, as you'd expect given the fact that they sit atop a volcanically active rift in the earth's oceanic crust, geothermal energy.

“All that is needed is cooperation and initiative to make the move to 100% renewable energy, agreed all the speakers” at a government-sponsored conference in Hilo at which the Hawai'i County Geothermal Working Group released the results of its effort to map the island's geothermal resources with the aim of identifying those suitable for exploiting to provide clean, reliable baseload electricity, according to a press release from Mayor Billy Kenoi's office. MORE


 

 

Geothermal Outlook 2012: Despite Difficulties, Industry Will Forge Ahead

Despite some financial and regulatory setbacks, the U.S. geothermal industry will plough ahead next year, finding some refuge in international markets.

geothermal plantThe U.S. geothermal market adds new projects to its development pipeline each year and 2012 will be no different. The industry will enter January with up to billions of dollars in planned investments. In 2005, geothermal energy became a qualifying renewable for the production tax credit (PTC), sparking new developments and by early 2011, U.S. capacity had swollen to 3,102 MW. Currently, up to 5,745 MW are in development. In May of 2011, Terra-Gen Power and TAS Energy added 2 MW to the 17-MW Beowawe, Nev. plant - the first geothermal project supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to begin operations.

But although many U.S. decision-makers have expressed their desire to have renewables in the energy mix, geothermal is still overlooked in Congress. Lou Capuano, founder of geothermal drillers ThermaSource says, "even though most of California's renewables are actually geothermal, it is still the poor stepchild." Funding for projects continues to stymie the industry: "the credit market in the U.S. and in Europe is not doing well, and a lot of our clients are still waiting for funding," he said. MORE


Canada has vast geothermal potential

Near surface in West and North; Hot rocks could produce more power than country consumes, federal report says

geothermal mapA "massive" store of clean, renewable energy is sitting at Canadians' feet, according to a federal report on geothermal energy.

Tapping into hot rocks that are tantalizingly close to the surface in western and northern Canada could generate more electricity than the entire country now consumes and generate few greenhouse gas emissions, says the report by a team of 12 scientists led by Stephen Grasby of the federal Geological Survey of Canada.

"As few as 100 projects could meet Canada's energy needs," according to the team's findings, to be presented at a geothermal conference in Toronto on Thursday.

The 322-page report suggests the clean, renewable source of energy could be a game-changer. MORE

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Can the Geothermal Industry Overcome Challenges to Raising Capital?

green dollarNew Hampshire, U.S.A. -- Geothermal energy presents baseload clean energy at a lower cost than many other renewable energy alternatives. Despite this compelling value proposition, long development horizons and the risks associated with exploration and drilling activities present hurdles to developing the country's rich geothermal potential. Financing projects that use conventional geothermal technology remains challenging in the uncertain economic environment.

In the past year, geothermal project developers used alternative strategies to overcome three common challenges to geothermal project finance. While the challenges for raising capital at the project level are consistent with those faced in previous years, they have become even more pronounced as investors' risk-tolerance remains low and capital constraints continue.

Three key challenges to raising capital for geothermal project investment have adversely affected developers in the past year. MORE


Canadian Study Shows Geothermal Potential at One Million Times Current Energy Demand

geothermal map of canadian resourcesA new 322-page study, Geothermal Energy Resource Potential of Canada, characterizes Canada's (in-place) geothermal potential as exceeding, by one million times, the country's current electrical consumption.

Of course, only about 40 percent of this incredibly abundant resource can be profiled (and extracted) given current technologies, as the study is quick to note.

Still, the remaining portion exists in highly usable forms (volcanic hot water and hot sedimentary basins)—an estimate that is borne out by geothermal research primarily carried out between 1962 and 1986, at which time the data collected was entered into a database to calibrate specific regions of Canada which researchers felt had the highest geothermal potential. MORE

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accentCanada's Geothermal Resources Could Power the Country One Million Times Over

accentCanada has vast geothermal potential

 

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