Today, Google.org announced more than $10 million in investments and grants in Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) technology. EGS expands the potential of traditional geothermal energy by orders of magnitude. The traditional geothermal approach relies on finding naturally occurring pockets of steam or hot water. The EGS process, by comparison, 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 has the potential to provide clean renewable electricity 24/7, at a cost cheaper than coal. The ability to produce electricity from geothermal energy has been thought exclusive to locations such as California and Iceland. However EGS could allow us to harness the heat within the earth almost anywhere. To see the massive size of the US geothermal resource accessible by EGS, check out the Google Earth layer.
EGS is heating up around the world. Australia, Germany, and the European Union are currently leading the technology and commercialization race. All 50 U.S. states, Europe, Russia, China, and India all have substantial thermal resources accessible by EGS.
A recent report by MIT on EGS estimated just 2% of the heat 3 – 10 km below the continental United States is more than 2,500 times the country’s total annual energy use