Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Op-ed: "Pushing energy innovation"

Article calls on government to be catalyst for innovation

New energy sources are being given little more than "lip service" by the major energy companies in the U.S. This is the view expressed by EDWARD GOLDBERG in a recent op-ed article that has appeared in newspapers around the country (Cincinnati Post, Hampshire Daily Gazette, Salt Lake Tribune, and the Baltimore Sun).

He sees a role for government in pushing innovation in the energy sector:

"The energy majors know that if oil, year in and year out, remains cheaper than competitive energy products, there will be little pressure to invest in new forms of energy. And when the oil market falls, as it has for the last six months, it reinforces this corporate stagnation. Thus the urgent need for Washington to become the risk taker of last resort."


Monday, February 26, 2007


A Superior Idea

Loren JenksAt first glance, MIT’s Prof. Jefferson W. Tester was doubtful about the practicality of Atlantic Geothermal’s “heat canal” concept. Once Dr. Tester took a good look at the heat canal idea, however, his skepticism changed. Should the concept prove workable, Tester told Atlantic Geothermal’s founder, David Reynolds, the heat canal approach to enhanced geothermal energy development would offer real advantages to geothermal heat mining.

Let’s be clear on the importance of the Feb. 12 meeting between Tester* and Reynolds. An expression of geniune interest by one of the world’s foremost authorities on geothermal energy can go a long way toward bringing a good idea into the real world of analysis, conclusion and validation. This would be very good for Atlantic Geothermal, of course; but launching a superior geothermal energy production design would be enormously beneficial to a world in desperate need of clean energy sources. It would also, by the way, be very good for the U.S. economy, as well as the quality of the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink.

Prof. Tester agreed that the heat canal looks good on paper. Rather than building multiple enhanced geothermal wells to pump water down into hot rock and extract steam to drive power-generating turbines at each site, the heat canal would draw from a much larger underground field for a much longer period of time — possibly measured in centuries rather than decades for the typical geothermal site. The heat canal, a horizontal bore 50 ft. wide and 80 to 100 miles long, 20,000 ft. below the surface and filled with sea water under pressure, with bore holes extending laterally 7500 ft. into hot rock, would generate an estimated 16 times the energy of the largest conventionally designed enhanced geothermal well, yet all that energy would be extracted from a single site. This design, Prof. Tester said, would significantly increase operating efficiency through a “synergy of systems.”

During their discussion, Tester and Reynolds identified two optional designs for the bore holes that could work with the required efficiency. One option would utilize fracturing of the hot rock area from which heat would be extracted. (Fracturing allows more heat to be extracted, but could multiply any tendency within the site toward geological instability.) The second option would involve drilling a lattice of bore holes and, while more expensive to install, would not require fracturing.

The next step is to have a mathematical analysis of for both options performed by GeothermEx, the big California-based geothermal exploration and development firm. Tester told Reynolds that he would be glad to verify mathematical calculations of heat extraction rates the geothermal canal model. While the sustainability of the heat canal design is being calculated, Atlantic Geothermal will be refining the design concept and trying to get a fix on projected costs. The immediate question is, how many billions of dollars are we talking about?

by Loren Jenks (

*Dr. Tester, the H. P. Meissner Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT, directed the multidisciplinary task force that recently released its major report, “Future of Geothermal Energy: Impact of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) on tbe United States in the 21st Century.”

Briefing planned on cutting edge geothermal developments

From GEA Press Release...
The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) will be hosting a briefing about "the latest developments in geothermal energy and what they could mean for the country's energy future..."

The event to be held on March 1 in Washington, DC will "highlight cutting edge reports and technological innovations that have made—and continue to make—geothermal a renewable success story."


Thursday, February 15, 2007

'Imagining Tomorrow' Clean Energy Contest

go to 'Imagining Tomorrow'IMAGINING TOMORROW is a creative writing and video contest about clean energy for all high school students in the United States. Top state and regional entries go on to the national level, with $10,000 committed in prizes.

Act now! Tell the high school students and teachers in your life that submissions are due March 31, 2007.

More details about this contest are available at The Foresight Project, Inc, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit in partnership with the Northeast Sustainable Energy Society (NESEA).

»download_1 (pdf) »download_2 (pdf)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Heat Map Shows Great Potential for U.S.

GEA geothermal resources map

An illustration from the Geothermal Energy Association shows the estimated earth temperatures at a depth of 6 kilometers (about 4 miles). Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius. According to the GEA, existing geothermal power technology can produce electricity from resources at temperatures as low as 90 degrees Celsius.

download (pdf)

Monday, February 12, 2007


“Renewable” or “Sustainable”

When is an energy source “renewable” and under what conditions is the same energy source “sustainable?” Before tackling these two different but not mutually exclusive terms with regard to geothermal energy, I scoured the Internet for “How many engineers does it take to install a light bulb?” jokes. I found some of varying quality, the best of which I will get to later.

On one engineering website I also found a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. The directions went like this: To a 2-L jacketed round reactor vessel with an overall heat transfer coefficient of about 100 Btu/F-ft2-hr, add ingredients one, two and three with constant agitation. In a second 2-L reactor vessel with a radial flow impeller operating at 100 rpm, add ingredients four, five, six, and seven until the mixture is homogeneous... and so on.

Since chocolate chip cookies are essential to the future of a technology-based civilized society (a statement that I consider inarguable) and noting that any currently available chocolate chip cookie recipe assumes a stable and affordable supply of electricity, let’s turn our attention once again to geothermal power generation.

To Atlantic Geothermal’s Dave Reynolds, the staggeringly comprehensive MIT study on geothermal resources, released last month, comes just in time. The report basically concludes that geothermal power generation, far from being a failed technology, simply hasn’t been sufficiently developed yet — this from scientists who were in on the original geothermal developments in the western U.S. 30 years ago.

Mostly as a result of the MIT study, there’s a lot of talk now about enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), which potentially could extend geothermal capacity beyond those places in the Western states where the earth’s mantle is thin and the ground occasionally moves with disturbing suddenness. There are no operational EGS plants in the United States, although test projects here and in other parts of the world have proven the feasibility of the concept.

Reynolds wants to make clear what the MIT report does not do. It does not establish that geothermal heat, a renewable energy source, is sustainable. That is, a reliable source that can be tapped indefinitely, because the flow of heat through subterranean rock layers will not be depleted by geothermal heat mining. This is what Atlantic Geothermal’s proposed Geothermal Heat Canal is all about — drawing heat from a large enough area to make significant power generation at the source site sustainable for generations.

The Heat Canal project goes beyond the conclusions advanced by the MIT study, which envisions clusters of single-source geothermal heat wells drilled vertically, just like oil wells. These heat wells would run productively for a certain number of years, then be left unused for about 3 times longer to allow temperatures in the heat basin to regenerate. That’s the renewable part. Basically, it’s like crop rotation, which is a step beyond the hunter-gatherer approach to food production.

Reynolds maintains that, with the Heat Canal, wells would not have to be abandoned at regular intervals. And they would not have to be sited in geologically unstable regions. He asserts that geothermal energy can be extracted in large amounts from sites that today are considered impractical — which so far is nearly everywhere. He also believes that with adequate research funding, we might be able to shave a decade or two from current projections for achieving energy self-sufficiency.

Is it worth doing? How much oil do you have in your back yard?

Oh, about the light bulb joke. It takes five engineers — one to design a light bulb that never needs changing, one to figure out how to rewire the grid, two to make the necessary installations, and one to write the software program that controls the wall switch. Got that?

by Loren Jenks (

Sunday, February 11, 2007

AP NEWS: Texas Issues Lease for Geothermal Energy

From the Associated Press...

"AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas has awarded the state's first lease for geothermal energy production to a company planning to explore the renewable energy's potential along seven Gulf Coast counties.

Ormat Technologies, Inc. paid $55,645, or $5 an acre, for the right to explore 11,129 acres for pockets of hot water and steam under the ocean floor, the General Land Office announced Tuesday.

'We got more bids than we expected," Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said. "I think that's a good sign geothermal might just be an economically viable form of renewable energy for Texas.'

The Texas Permanent School Fund, which helps funds the state's public education, will get 10 percent of any energy revenues that Reno, Nev.-based Ormat produces on state land.

Producers create geothermal energy by tapping into warm geologic strata to withdraw hot water and steam that is brought to the surface to drive turbines, which in turn drive electricity generators.

Spokesman Paul Thomsen said the project will enable Ormat to evaluate the region's potential for geothermal energy, which it hopes to produce within two to five years.

He said the company will consider using capped oil and gas wells on submerged state coastal properties. The company hopes to find adequately hot temperatures between 4,000 and 6,000 feet below the surface, he said.

'The idea is if we can utilize existing wells, it reduces the risks in drilling,' Thomsen said."

Friday, February 9, 2007

National RPS Bill Introduced on Capitol Hill


"New legislation that would require many U.S. utilities to generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy resources by 2020 was introduced yesterday by Congressman Tom Udall of New Mexico..."

more RPS

Who in the world is visiting

Click for detailed view.Site statistics:

In the past few weeks, has had more than 350 individual visitors from around the world. These visitors have viewed nearly 1000 pages, mostly in English, but in 7 other languages as well, including Chinese. Listed below are the numbers of visitors from each country and their languages. Country & Number of Unique Visitors United States 305 ~ Canada 22 ~ Australia 7 ~ United Kingdom 4 ~ Sweden 3 ~ Slovakia 2 ~ China 2 ~ Iceland 2 ~ Taiwan 1 ~ Indonesia 1 ~ India 1 ~ South Africa 1 ~ Greece 1 ~ France 1 ~ Spain 1 ~ Mexico 1 ~ Ukraine 1 Language & Number of Unique Visitors en-us (English -United States) 314 ~ en (English) 31 ~ zh-cn (Chinese PRC) 2 ~ es (Spanish Spain Traditional) 2 ~ sv (Swedish) 2 ~ zh-tw (Chinese Taiwan) 1 ~ el (Greek) 1 ~ fr (French Standard) 1 ~ sv-se (Swedish dialect)1 ~ ru (Russian) 1

Thursday, February 8, 2007

'Flabbergasted' About Geothermal in Nashua, NH

Reprinted with permission from The Nashua (New Hampshire) Telegraph.

"At the risk of being one of those people who talks about their vacations all the time (I’m actually one of those people who talks about their kids all the time), I must admit that ever since I visited Iceland last year, I’ve really wanted a geothermal power plant.

That doesn’t mean one of the so-called “geothermal” systems we have around here, which are really heat-exchange systems that use the constant temperature of well water to lower the cost of heating and cooling a building.

I’m talking about real geothermal, which uses extreme heat from underground magma or natural radioactive decay to boil water and send it shooting up through power-producing turbines.

Iceland has lots of that stuff, since it’s located over the joint where the European tectonic plate is separating from the North American plate, so magma is constantly shooting up out of the ground. (Iceland is basically one-third volcanoes, one-third glaciers, and one-third Bjork fans.)

One time, in fact, Iceland had to stop drilling a geothermal well because a volcano erupted right up through the borehole! Is that neat or what?

It’s the only such event in history, as I learned from the video for visitors at the massive Krafla power plant. I writhed with envy when I heard it, because I live in seismically inactive, geologically boring New Hampshire. No subsurface magma here.

"So I was flabbergasted last month when I saw that a much-publicized MIT report urging geothermal energy for the U.S. cited our own Conway as a potential location for a power plant."

In fact, it was the only promising site east of the Mississippi.

“That’s because of all the granite you have. The uranium, thorium and potassium act like a natural nuclear reactor and keep the rock warm,” said Ron DiPippo, a former dean of engineering from UMass-Dartmouth who was on the panel that wrote the report.

In fact, he said in a telephone interview last week, during the 1970s oil shocks a “hot, dry rock” experiment was planned for Conway to determine the suitability of geothermal power, but it never went anywhere.

The new study, titled “The Future of Geothermal Energy,” says the best bet is a more aggressive method that involves pumping water down to subterranean heat sources, so it can shoot back up again and power the turbines. They call it the Enhanced Geothermal System.

Alas, further review of the report shows that Conway is the least promising of the various locations considered by the group, because you’d have to drill down six miles to get enough heat. (By contrast, a deep drilled well goes down barely one-tenth of a mile.)

As a result, the cost estimates put together by the 18-member panel at the urging of the U.S. Department of Energy say power from a Conway geothermal plant could cost two to six times as much as from the other sites it considered, all of which were out West.

“It’s certainly one of the more expensive places to look at,” admitted DiPippo.

But finding cheap power to be tapped in the next few years wasn’t the point of the study. It was designed to highlight the plausibility of geothermal energy in the U.S., so that more research and development will occur and geothermal can be added to the nation’s mix of power sources.

Maybe even in the North Country.

“If we’re talking 40 or 50 years down the road and petroleum is either non-existent or so expensive we have to look for alternatives, then it’s not unreasonable to begin to look at places like Conway,” said DiPippo. “We’ve got to start looking at this now, if we want it to succeed."

Man, I am ready. Could you imagine it: A day of skiing, then taking a dip in a geothermal hot tub?

Eat your heart out, Bjork!"

Link to the original Nashua Telegraph online publication, February 7, 2007: Geothermal energy is hot topic in U.S. among scientists
'Acronym Soup' ~ MIT UMass

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

NEW REPORT: "Tackling Climate Change in the U.S."

"Tackling Climate Change in the U.S.: Potential Carbon Emissions Reductions from Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by 2030" is a landmark report released by the American Solar Energy Society in January, 2007.
  • Read Chapter 9 of the report, "Potential Carbon Emissions Reductions from Geothermal Power by 2030," co-authored by Martin Vorum of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Jefferson Tester of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Friday, February 2, 2007


Atlantic Geothermal’s Dave Reynolds is not reinventing the wheel; he’s building a coach from spare parts left lying around for years by the oil, gas and mining industries. In other words, as has been said already, the technology exists today to make the United States energy independent, perhaps indefinitely. How? By tapping into the heat that lies beneath our feet. If it’s done right, Reynolds claims, the energy obtainable from hot rocks is sustainable for centuries, does not require burning fossil fuels, will not pollute the environment, runs 24 hours a day seven days a week, can provide an unending supply of fresh water from sea water, and is not only achievable but affordable at today’s energy prices. His argument is compelling.

Sure, there are obstacles to overcome, questions to be answered. For example, how clean is it? Atlantic Geothermal advances a feasible design solution to concerns about mineral pollutants leached from subterranean rock. Could extended development of geothermal energy cause earthquakes? Well, listen folks, what they’re doing now, drilling into fissures between tectonic plates to mine readily available steam, does not fill me with reassurance. Atlantic Geothermal is advancing a project to run steam turbines on heat mined from almost anywhere within 100 miles of the ocean — specifically, New England, which is not considered a hotbed of geothermal capacity, nor of earthquakes.

The landmark MIT report on potential geothermal resources, released January 22, demonstrates with mountains of data that “enhanced geothermal systems” (EGS) can meet up to 10 percent of the nation’s current and projected electricity needs by 2050. This amount would replace the generating capacity that will be lost by the expected retirement of old coal-fired and nuclear generating plants.

Atlantic Geothermal’s visionary project leapfrogs the 30-year continuous operating life expectancies of EGS plants by greatly expanding the hot rock energy field. By drilling an 80- to 100-mile-long, 50-ft.-wide tunnel three miles below the surface, then expanding bore holes 1500 ft. laterally, the project could realize an energy field potentially 3,000 ft. wide and 80 miles long. Reynolds projects that one such system could generate 1600 megawatts of power per hour — 16 times the output of a large conventionally designed EGS plant, and nearly matching the output of Hoover Dam. And, due to the greatly expanded heat reservoir of a field that size, the generating capacity would last indefinitely. Land use concerns? Except for the input and output facilities, the entire system is three miles underground, maintained by hydrostatic pressure.

It bears repeating that the know-how exists today to bring Atlantic Geothermal’s vision of perpetually sustained clean energy into reality. All it takes is political and economic willpower. What are we waiting for?

by Loren Jenks (

Enhanced Geothermal Systems for the U.S.

Mission of the U.S. Geothermal Technologies Program...
Experimental EGS

"To develop enhanced geothermal systems technology that produces electricity from artificially created geothermal systems."

download (pdf)

U.S. geothermal group urges Congressional support

From (GEA) via Renewable Energy Access...

"Legislation before the U.S. Congress to fund federal agencies for the remainder of this fiscal year could be a 'major setback' for geothermal energy unless Congress intervenes..."


Thursday, February 1, 2007

Energy 'Favorability' Score

We think geothermal, using heat energy stored in the deep earth, is a highly favorable form of power generation. Do you agree with our 'favorability' score?
See our comparison of 5 energy systems.