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Sci Tech

What Are the Energy Alternatives? (Pt. 2 of Series)

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Heat Mining, Hot Dry Rock, Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS)

Part One explored new Concentrated Solar Power systems (CSPs).

Photo: US DOE.


The earth contains near unlimited energy, enough to power civilizations for thousands of years, and more.  It's right below your feet, if you drill down far enough.

Scientists at Los Alamos have drilled down far enough, which is about a mile give or take.  The technology works, and has been proven feasible since the late 1970s.  Did you know this?  Does anyone talk about "Hot Dry Rock" geothermal heat mining now renamed Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS)?

Credit to Karl Grossman and his EnviroVideo program for investigating Hot Dry Rock and bringing it to my attention on  

MIT scientists led a panel that studied "The Future of Geothermal Energy" in 2005.  They wrote a comprehensive report, and it's available online.  You'll be pleased to know a few of their findings:
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"EGS methods have been tested at a number of sites around the world and have been improving steadily.

...In fact, many attributes of geothermal energy, namely its widespread distribution, baseload dispatchability without storage, small footprint, and low emissions, are desirable for reaching a sustainable energy future for the United States.

...Most  of  the  key  technical  requirements  to  make  EGS  work  economically  over  a  wide  area  of  the  country  are  in  effect,  with  remaining  goals  easily  within  reach."

The original test site at Fenton Hill New Mexico employed two pipes.  One fed water down into the rock.  The second retrieved the high pressure steam.  Based on their tests, the engineers found that having two, or perhaps more, of the retrieval pipes, instead of just one would increase efficiency dramatically.

"This three-well configuration, at least for the example of Fenton Hill, would provide at least four times the thermal power output (Brown, 1994)"

So Where's the Investment?
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Significant investment is nowhere in sight in the United States.

"In  the  short  term,  R&D  funding  levels  and  government  policies  and  incentives  have  not favored growth of U.S. geothermal capacity from conventional, highgrade hydrothermal resources."

The problem is once again clearly political rather than technological.  The heat mining works.  

"The system" does not.

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Joe Giambrone is an American author, freelance writer and filmmaker. Non-fiction works appear at International Policy Digest, WhoWhatWhy, Foreign Policy Journal, Counterpunch, Globalresearch, , OpedNews, High Times and other online outlets. His science fiction thriller Transfixion and his Hollywood satire (more...)

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