Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Google journeys to the center of the earth (well not quite) with latest alternative energy foray

Original Article

Apparently Google’s philanthropic arm isn’t content investing in just one source of alternative energy, which makes sense considering the geographic diversity of the planet we live on. The search and business applications giant last week said it will put up about $10.25 million toward energy technology called enhanced geothermal systems (EGS). The U.S. Department of Energy provides this handy backgrounder for those of you, like me, who aren’t familiar with this area. Here’s a bit more, as well, about Google’s alternative energy mission, which lives under the name Google Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal.

If I understand the concept correctly, this technology doesn’t just harvest naturally occurring pockets of heat within the earth, it can replicate these conditions by fracturing rocks (as an example) and use the resulting steam to run turbines. Imitating nature, if you will. The company goes on to point out a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that estimates that just 2 percent of the heat trapped beneath the continental United States at a depth of between three and 10 kilometers is about 2,500 times the country’s total energy use. Here’s a link where you can find more information as well as a PDF of the relevant study.

Google’s geothermal investments are going to the following organizations:

- AltaRock Energy, which is getting $6.25 million for work in technologies to make EGS projects more practical and affordable.
- Potter Energy, which will receive $4 million to help expand the range of hard rock drilling
- Southern Methodist University Geothermal Lab, which earned a $489,521 grant to improve the understanding of how big natural geothermal resources might be AND where they are located.

Finally, here’s a link where you can review some maps of geothermal potential as well as information about all of Google’s alternative energy investments to date:

Enhanced Geothermal Systems

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