Google announced today that it is investing $10.25 million (via Google.org) in an energy technology called Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS). The specific investments are:
AltaRock Energy, Inc.
$6.25 million investment to develop innovative technologies to achieve significant cost reductions and improved performance in EGS projects.
Potter Drilling, Inc.
$4 million investment in two tranches, to develop new approaches to lower the cost and expand the range of deep hard rock drilling, a critical element to large-scale deployment of EGS.
Southern Methodist University Geothermal Lab
$489,521 grant to improve understanding of the size and distribution of geothermal energy resources and to update geothermal mapping of North America.
EGS expands the potential of geothermal energy by orders of magnitude. The traditional geothermal approach relies on finding naturally occurring pockets of steam and hot water. The EGS process, replicates these conditions by fracturing hot rock, circulating water through the system, and using the resulting steam to produce electricity in a conventional turbine.
"EGS could be the ‘killer app’ of the energy world. It has the potential to deliver vast quantities of power 24/7 and be captured nearly anywhere on the planet. And it would be a perfect complement to intermittent sources like solar and wind," said Dan Reicher, Director of Climate and Energy Initiatives for Google.org.
The following video provides an overview of EGS:
In its funding announcement, Google cited an MIT report on EGS (The Future of Geothermal Energy) that estimated that just 2% of the heat below the continental United States between 3 and 10 kilometers (depths within the range of current drilling technology) is more than 2,500 times the country’s total annual energy use.
"EGS is critical to the clean electricity revolution we need to solve the climate crisis, but EGS hasn’t received the attention it merits. That’s why we’re pressing for expanded support from government and increased investment from the private sector," said Reicher, "We’re big believers in EGS and we’re looking for more opportunities."
Today’s announcement is part of Google’s Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal initiative. This initiative, announced in November 2007, focuses on solar thermal power, advanced wind, EGS, and other potential breakthrough technologies. An initial goal of this initiative (also known as "RE<C") is to produce one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity that is cheaper than coal, in years, not decades.
- Google.org: EGS
- Google.org: Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal
- Google.org Invests More than $10 Million in Breakthrough Geothermal Energy Technology (Google press release, August 19, 2008)
- Enough Geothermal Energy to Power the Globe — Now That’s Hot! (Google.org Blog, August 19, 2008)
- The Future of Geothermal Energy (MIT)