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Earth Power Hardware

Pouring Water Into a Volcano To Generate Power 321

Hugh Pickens writes "Until recently, geothermal power systems have exploited only resources where naturally occurring heat, water, and rock permeability are sufficient to allow energy extraction. Now, geothermal energy developers plan use a new technology called Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) to pump 24 million gallons of water into the side of the dormant Newberrry Volcano, located about 20 miles south of Bend, Oregon, in an effort to use the earth's heat to generate power. 'We know the heat is there,' says Susan Petty, president of AltaRock Energy, Inc. of Seattle. 'The big issue is can we circulate enough water through the system to make it economic.' Since natural cracks and pores do not allow economic flow rates, the permeability of the volcanic rock can be enhanced with EGS by pumping high-pressure cold water down an injection well into the rock, creating tiny fractures in the rock, a process known as hydroshearing. Then cold water is pumped down production wells into the reservoir, and the steam is drawn out. Natural geothermal resources only account for about 0.3 percent of U.S. electricity production, but a 2007 Massachusetts Institute of Technology report projected EGS could bump that to 10 percent within 50 years, at prices competitive with fossil-fuels. 'The important question we need to answer now,' says USGS geophysicist Colin Williams, 'is how geothermal fits into the renewable energy picture, and how EGS fits. How much it is going to cost, and how much is available.'"
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Pouring Water Into a Volcano To Generate Power

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  • Head to Hawaii... (Score:5, Informative)

    by TrailerTrash ( 91309 ) * on Sunday January 15, 2012 @10:58AM (#38705572)

    They've been there, done that:

    A 30 MW plant producing heat and energy from the world's most active volcano. An 8 MW addition was just approved, and the utility (HELCO) is looking to expand even further:

    If there is an area that has a shot at 100% of their electricity from non-petroleum sources, it's the Big Island, with abundant wind, solar and geothermal options.

  • Re:Not just that (Score:4, Informative)

    by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @11:15AM (#38705678)

    The same reason you don't burn them: air pollution.

  • Re:Not again? (Score:5, Informative)

    by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @12:15PM (#38706026) Homepage
    The turbines are produced by Halliburton — I've seen the red Halliburton truck dragging one up Bottle Rock Rd. on a massive flatbed.

    Sorry but no. Most of the Geysers turbines were manufactured by Toshiba Corp (sorry, PDF) [], with the exception of 2 turbines which were manufactured by GE (these may be retired now). New or replacement turbines are definitely competitively bid, since my company bids on them. Halliburton doesn't make steam turbines. If indeed you have seen Halliburton at the geysers, they must have been a transportation contractor or something like that.

    As for the "superfund site", I can't find anything on this that is less than 15 years old. And this report [] from 1983 says there is nothing hazardous at the Geysers. I'll agree it is a very old report and standards have changed since then, but the only other EPA document available is in 1995- they seem to have capped some wells that had the potential of a hydrogen sulfide explosion. Hardly the "drums full of toxic chemicals" that you are implying.
  • by jo_ham ( 604554 ) <joham999@ g m a> on Sunday January 15, 2012 @05:27PM (#38708024)


    It happens all the time in the upper atmosphere due to high energy UV from the sun. The chemistry of the stratosphere is esoteric due to the low pressure and high energies involved.

    It doesn't mean that *all* of the water vapour makes it up into the stratosphere to be split by this process, so there's plenty in the lower layers to form clouds.

  • Re:Not just that (Score:5, Informative)

    by QuantumRiff ( 120817 ) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @06:32PM (#38708586)

    Newberry crater isn't like a volcano in the movies.. the caldera at the top has two lakes, a resort, campgrounds, etc. There is also a very large obsidian lava flow (100 feet of glass rocks, its pretty cool).. It also has awesome views from the top. []

  • by Rennt ( 582550 ) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @08:09PM (#38709300)

    He was joking. The possibility was first raised by Edward Teller, but it was ruled out long before the test by showing radiative losses exceeded energy production. The story goes that Oppenheimer mentioned it passing to Arthur Compton, who had the bad judgment to mention it to the Whitehouse. After that the scientists never heard the end of it

    It's akin to a scientist at the LHC taking bets about ending the world through creation of a black hole.

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments