Look out fracking, geothermal energy is here to drill. Geothermal energy is the thermal energy that comes from the earth. While there is plenty of geothermal energy around, turning it into power has been difficult. Traditionally this type of power has been produced by drilling near hot springs and volcanoes. This form of renewable energy is about to become more popular however due to technological advances.
In 2016, the United States actually led the world in geothermal production from over 75 power plants nationwide. With about half of the capacity as the United States, the Philippines is the second largest producer, and geothermal there makes up over a quarter of the nation’s electricity generation. And where are the largest reserves? Indonesia may very well be, with over 30GW in reserve.
The Nevis Geothermal Project, a planned 10MW geothermal generating plant, will allow the island to transition to 100 percent reliance on zero emissions renewable energy. What is interesting is that the developer, Thermal Energy Partners, recently formed a new company with Schlumberger New Energy to focus on creating more geothermal energy projects. The new company, GeoFrame Energy, will now look at taking new technologies to geothermal projects and developing them worldwide. The president of one of the merging companies, Dan Pfeffer of Thermal Energy Partners, stated that “GeoFrame Energy’s approach creates a unique opportunity to de-risk and optimize the development of geothermal power projects, reduce costs and compress schedules. This will unlock the full potential of geothermal power generation globally.” The “de-risk” for investors is key – and will allow thermal energy to blossom.
With public opposition being a hurdle to wind and solar renewables, geothermal has been largely unscathed by negative public reaction. Geothermal can last billions of years, and a geothermal plant can produce energy every day, all day, regardless of the weather. Despite all of this, and likely being the largest source of energy in the world today, geothermal is only around 1% of overall energy production in the world. In fact, according to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey, at least 70% of geothermal resources have yet to be discovered.
Some countries however not only have discovered thermal energy, they are using it above and beyond expectations. Iceland, a leader in renewable energy, is looking to be carbon negative soon. Geothermal is their answer to removing carbon from the air. Geothermal energy uses a ground looping system to pump heat from the earth upward and use it as energy. During this process, carbon capture and storage technology uses steam from geothermal to capture CO2. It liquefies the gas into a condensed form that can then dissolve in water.
Down further south in East Africa is the Great Rift Valley, a 6,500 kilometer long depression that is a source of tectonic activity. Along much of the rift’s length, heat from the interior of the earth comes to the surface. It’s estimated that if Eastern Africa harnessed that energy, it could generate 20 gigawatts of energy. In an area where millions of people have no energy, this is a game changer.
So the next time you hear “drill baby drill”, don’t just think oil or gas, think of the soon to be burgeoning industry of geothermal energy.
Al Maiorino started Public Strategy Group, Inc. in 1995. His firm has developed and managed multiple corporate public affairs campaigns in a variety of industries such as gaming, cable television, retail development, auto racing, energy and residential projects. Additionally, his firm has worked on projects in twenty-six states and three countries.