In the continuing effort to develop electricity from renewable energy cheaper than from coal, Google, through its philanthropic arm Google.org, announced $10.25 million in investments in a breakthrough energy technology called Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS).
The announcement also includes funding for research on next-generation geothermal resource mapping, EGS information tools, and a policy agenda for geothermal energy.
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, 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.
A recent MIT report on EGS estimates 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 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.
Google’s Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal initiative focuses on solar thermal power, advanced wind, EGS and other potential breakthrough technologies. Google has set a goal to produce one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity, enough to power a city the size of San Francisco, in years, not decades.
“Innovation is the path to massive quantities of cleaner, cheaper energy. The people we’re funding today have a real shot at lowering the cost of EGS, and bringing us closer to our goal of Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal,” added Dr. Larry Brilliant, executive director of Google.org.
“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.”