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Earth Power

Another Casualty of Typhoon Haiyan: Geothermal Power 78

necro81 writes "Little known even in environmental circles is a renewable energy success story: five geothermal power plants on Leyte Island in the Philippines — each of which produces enough power for the entire island — that collectively produce more than 10% of the Philippines' total electrical demand. From boreholes deep underground comes pressurized water heated to 280 Celsius. At the surface it flashes into steam, turning one set of turbines, then cools and contracts to spin a second set of turbines. The low-grade steam is then condensed back into water and reinjected into the bedrock. But Typhoon Haiyan destroyed the cooling towers, snapped transmission towers, and scattered the employees."
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Another Casualty of Typhoon Haiyan: Geothermal Power

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  • Such a shame, hopefully they plants can be repaired quickly. And hay, apparently they are much safer than the alternatives.

    • Yes, because we have many examples of nuclear power plants melting down after getting hit by tropical cyclones.

      • by Luckyo ( 1726890 ) on Friday November 22, 2013 @08:37PM (#45497181)

        It doesn't make much sense to power an island that has a functional alternative in geothermal with nuclear. It's a bit like trying to shoot birds with a machine gun. A massive overkill.

        • I was just commenting on the absurdity of AmiMoJo's statement, not arguing that they should have built nuclear. No matter what plant they built, when the transmission towers went down, the plant would have to shut down.

          • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

            He does have a point in that nuclear would likely not have to shut down, at least not for long. Both far greater security measures and lack of need for coolant towers, as coast nuclear plants usually use sea water as coolant, would indeed be far more likely to survive disaster intact.

            You don't have the same choice with geothermal which is very much tied to the location of the source.

            • Look at his subject line - he was implying that if these plants had been nuclear, they would be experiencing a meltdown.

              • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

                After Fukushima, a lot of people seem to have that misconception I guess. They never advertise that another plant that was actually closer to epicenter survived it just fine.

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

            It's not absurd. Japan had the same choice, invest trillions of Yen in geothermal or in nuclear. It chose nuclear for a variety of reasons, like wanting to be part of the nuclear club and have the means to build nuclear weapons at short notice.

            • And Japan's nuclear meltdown happened after an earthquake and tsunami that killed 15,000 people - not a hurricane. It might be perfectly reasonable to say that building a nuclear plant in a country that sits within the ring of fire is a bad idea, but implying that this particular storm would have caused a meltdown is pure FUD.

              • Fukishima melted down because the earthquake cut off power, and then the tsunami flooded the emergency generators because the designers failed to anticipate the size of the tsunami wave. In a cyclone of this size the loss of electric power is a certainty. If the Fukishima designers failed to adequately protect the generators from an unanticipated tsunami, what is to say the designers of a Filipino nuclear plant would have anticipated the height of the storm surge from such an extraordinary cyclone? I thi
                • what is to say the designers of a Filipino nuclear plant would have anticipated the height of the storm surge from such an extraordinary cyclone?

                  Because it has never happened anywhere in the world, despite nuclear facilities taking hits from hurricanes on a regular basis. I know from memory that a single nuclear plant (St. Lucie) took two direct hurricane hits in a single season, and it sits on a low-lying barrier island in Florida.

                  A poorly designed nuclear plant could be built anywhere.

                  LOL, yes, that is certainly true. Some of the early designs were terrifying, and the Russians kept it up until Chernobyl.

        • Well, if you were a door to door nuclear power plant and machine gun salesman, you might disagree.

        • Exactly! If it was a state you're posing then you could make the argument that nuclear is the way to go, but on an island like this geothermal is the ideal way to go. It cheap and a hell of a lot more cost effective
  • by cervesaebraciator ( 2352888 ) on Friday November 22, 2013 @07:13PM (#45496491)

    For many in the Philippines, the damage here exemplifies a broader paradox: A storm consistent with some scientists’ warnings about climate change has done tremendous damage to an island that is one of the world’s biggest success stories of renewable energy, and to a country that has contributed almost nothing to the global accumulation of greenhouse gases.

    Come on NYT! That not paradoxical; it's ironic.

    Regardless, this is an odd way to frame the story. Such a storm would (and did) destroy other kinds of power plants. Geothermal power is not a casualty of the typhoon.

    • by mcmonkey ( 96054 )

      Come on NYT! That not paradoxical; it's ironic.

      It's not ironic, it's unfortunate.

      • by leathered ( 780018 ) on Friday November 22, 2013 @07:46PM (#45496753)

        It's not ironic, it's unfortunate.

        It's like rain on your wedding day.

      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        It's not ironic, it's unfortunate.

        Coming up with examples of "ironic" which are not unfortunate to the subject is pretty hard.

        • by mcmonkey ( 96054 )

          A wind farm getting blown away by a typhoon is ironic. A geothermal plant getting blown away is not.

          • Context in the article is everything here. Yes, I agree that a wind farm getting blown a way would normally be a better example of irony than a geothermal plant suffering such an end. I'd say likewise for a geothermal power plant getting destroyed by a volcano erupting. But in this case the article did not speak of the geothermal power plant as geothermal power plant, but as a response to global warming in a country that had contributed little to the same. It was in this context that they say, 'Look, here's
    • by icebike ( 68054 )

      Such a storm would (and did) destroy other kinds of power plants.

      My guess is the author feels those other plants DESERVED getting destroyed, and without the green angle there is really not much of a story here.

      I'd rather be asking why they are bothering to have cooling towers, and perhaps even why they are bothering to re-inject the water at all. The Island gets 200 inches of rainfall every month, and twice that in their summer months, and its sitting in the middle of the ocean. If it was still felt that injection was necessary, just inject rainwater and dispense with

      • by jblues ( 1703158 )

        Such a storm would (and did) destroy other kinds of power plants.

        I rather suspect those will be put back up on poles and towers rather than taking the opportunity to bury a such of the local grid as possible. The lesson will have to be re-learned.

        I believe power pretty much always goes up on poles and over land here, not buried. . . Besides being Typhoon-prone, we're in the pacific ring of fire so are earthquake prone. . . Japan does the same thing. . It can get a little messy, though I'm sure it doesn't have to look like this typical manila example: []

        • by icebike ( 68054 )

          I believe power pretty much always goes up on poles and over land here, not buried

          I have no idea where "over here" is, but walking around where I live I can't see any power poles any where
          near my neighborhood. Its all under ground till you get several streets away, and encounter a substation.

          You can marshal a bunch of crews to restring high tension lines from the plants, because those aren't
          that much line to string. Its all straight line

          But when EVERY SINGLE neighborhood's distribution grid is blown down, high-lines really don't matter that much.
          This is the part that needs to be undergr

          • by Velex ( 120469 )
            Not in Western/Southwestern Michigan. Good thing we don't typically get hurricance force winds. (Although last Sunday coulda fooled me.)
      • by yo303 ( 558777 )

        I'd rather be asking why they are bothering to have cooling towers,

        That part was explained in TFS. It is because after the expanding pressurized hot water expands into steam past turbines, they cool it and run the condensing steam past turbines a second time to get even more energy out of it. Clever.

        • by icebike ( 68054 )

          Not particularly clever, its done that way in every steam plant in the world, but you have the steps mixed up. The cooling towers are the last step before re injection, AFTER all passes through the various turbines.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      On the contrary, renewables like wind and solar are very fragile. Both on a local scale, and on the extensive grid that they require to deliver some semblance of reliable power. Any typhoon or hurricane will totally destroy wind or solar farms along with the grid, and leave a completely non-functional energy system.

      Nuclear plants on the other hand are very robust against natural disaster, and allow for a highly distributed and reliable energy system. Along with small modular reactors there will be an eve

  • by NicBenjamin ( 2124018 ) on Friday November 22, 2013 @07:15PM (#45496499)

    The Phillipines is poor enough that a storm like kills a lot of people, but it's getting richer fast. I'm not a geothermal engineer, but I'd assume a very expensive bit of building a geothermal plant is creating the boreholes in the first place, and then keeping them from collapsing. If the hole survived it should be much cheaper to repair then it was to build in the first place. IOf there was enough business to justify it then there's probably enough to justify rebuilding it at a lower price.

    Hell, if they had a good insurance policy it won't cost them a dime. Their rates will skyrocket in the future, but at least they'll have their electricity back.

    • by icebike ( 68054 )

      If the hole survived

      When was the last time you saw a windstorm destroy a hole?

      These all surface through concrete slabs. The company is now testing all of the components of that power plant in the hope of bringing it back into full service and repowering Leyte Island by Dec. 24.

      The issue is more about the power grid than these plants.

      • I figure a windstorm destroys a hole by filling it in with a lot of debris. As this was a typhoon, there is a good possibility of a lot of runoff filled with sediment and debris, and if the structures around the boreholes were destroyed, then that sediment and debris could convievably end up down the borehole.

        of course, as you stated, they hope to be back online in a month, so that was probably not the case.
      • Rain causes mudslides, and a hurricane has a lot of rain.

        High winds can blow things into holes, and hurricanes tend to spawn tornadoes.

        I'll admit it's unlikely, but it could happen.

        • by icebike ( 68054 )

          Blow thing into holes?

          These aren't some random Geyser that they shoved a hose down into, you do know that don't you?

          These are man drilled bore-holes with steel casings that terminate in a concrete slab inside a big building.
          See the picture: []

          You might get a mud slide flowing through the plant and have to wash that away, but is not like
          palm trees and broken houses are going to flow into the hole.

          • I believe the point of the article was that the various big buildings involved have been severely damaged. And if one of the tornadoes that accompanies any Typhoon/Hurricane hit their building in the wrong spot they could easily lose their boreholes. Regardless I didn't bring up the possibility because I thought that they'd definitely have that problem, I brought it up because they theoretically could have that problem.

            Mind you I can't actually check any of this, because I refuse to deal with the Times payw

  • by rsborg ( 111459 ) on Friday November 22, 2013 @07:26PM (#45496617) Homepage

    To swiftboat almost any anything that Big Industry (in this case, Big Oil) considers a threat/nuisance. WTF do they think would have happened if an aging TEPCO reactor was in the same storm? I wouldn't like to be there and find out. How would a deepwater oil platform have fared?

    I'm pretty much sick of what passes for "news" these days. It's all pretty much shameless puff pieces and hit jobs because that's what corporations pay for.

    • by icebike ( 68054 )

      Really, what part of the story had anything to do with that?
      You didn't even bother to read the story did you?

      The plants are expected to be back on line by Christmas, as soon as the employees can make some
      arrangements for their families. Whether or not the power grid will be ready is another issue.

      But big oils wasn't even involved here, you just took any story as an excuse to rant.

    • by khallow ( 566160 )
      While the Philippines don't have a nuclear power plant, they do have off shore oil platforms.
    • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) *

      You mean the "corporate media" like the New York Times, that used this as yet another opportunity to blame climate change?

      For many in the Philippines, the damage here exemplifies a broader paradox: A storm consistent with some scientists’ warnings about climate change has done tremendous damage to an island that is one of the world’s biggest success stories of renewable energy, and to a country that has contributed almost nothing to the global accumulation of greenhouse gases.

      Yep, they really sound like shrills for Big Oil with that piece.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Fukushima was an exception that proper regulation would have prevented. Other nuclear reactors closer to the epicenter in Japan were hit harder by the tsunami, yet survived without incident. So have reactors survived tornadoes, and they are even built to withstand plane impacts. The plants themselves are virtually indestructible.

      Renewables are not, and wind/solar farms will be torn apart in such disasters. Reactors may cost billions, but they survive and produce prodigious amounts of energy. Renewables

  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Friday November 22, 2013 @07:40PM (#45496715)

    That's it, we've reached the tipping point. The environment is now attacking the environmentally friendly sites first feeding it ever increasing amounts of carbon and making it's stronger.

    The scientists did warn us about a runaway chain reaction.

    • That explains why climate change deniers all seem to lack intelligence; they're merely trolling apparitions created by Gaia.

    • There is only one solution.

      We must kill the environment before it kills us.
      • Way ahead of you. I've got a heater and an AC in the room on at the same time. We'll get that damned environment before it gets us.

  • Either way. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I don't like coal. Global warming? Meh who gives a fuck.

    But living where alot of coal plants are in use... There's this fine fine black soot on everything.
    They seem to crank the plants to 200% at night. And in the morning there's soot everywhere.

    Whatever it is it even makes it thru high quality air filters and sticks to everything. Water won't wash it off either.

    I don't give a fuck about the planet and global warming. Because really. I won't be alive long enough for us to even admit its a problem.

  • "Massive country is deriving 10% of their electricity from geothermal"
    Because if you ask random people, they may have heard of Iceland doing geothermal, and think it only works well there.

    • Where "massive" means half the size of Pakistan or Nigeria. How about "Medium sized country built on volcanoes has 10% geothermal power"? I'm guessing you wouldn't care ffor "Geothermal useless for 90% of volcanic island's energy needs".

      • It's the 12th most populated country in the world! Essentially 100M people.
        The density is huge because the islands are not, but for power, what matters is the millions who live there!

        Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa (7th overall), and Pakistan would feel huge if its neighbors weren't so over-the-top (6th overall). Choose your comparison points a bit better...
        This ain't no "Medium size" country for this topic.

  • by geekpowa ( 916089 ) on Friday November 22, 2013 @08:26PM (#45497097)

    "renewable energy success story" : ha! Power reliability has always been a significant problem in Leyte. All businesses in Tacloban CBD have backup generators which they fire up at least a couple of times a week, sometimes daily. The city is often accompanied by the hum of diesel generators.

    I recall articles in National newspapers talking about constant power shortages across Visaya's region, with rolling blackouts where Northern Luzon region (where Manila is) has plenty of supply.

    Maybe it is mostly a transmission problem, not a generation problem, but constant rolling blackouts suggests an enduring generation to me. Hardly a success story

  • The next typhoon might wipe out sensationalist headlines. Yeah I know, that'd be one heck of a storm. It takes a mighty wind to compete with what passes for journalism online. That storm might not be mighty enough to take out Congress though. Wheeeew, Nelly!

MESSAGE ACKNOWLEDGED -- The Pershing II missiles have been launched.