World's first negative-emission power plant

With much less visibility than solar and wind energy, geothermal energy is one of the alternatives available for the electrical system to ultimately produce a blackout of fossil and nuclear energy. Technological advances and the competitive advantages of this energy source, such as its independence from climatic conditions, are nevertheless revitalizing it from one end of the world to the other. Iceland is one of the closest and one of the ones that puts the most on the table for energy from its volcanoes to add to the national supply. This and other advancements in geothermal energy show just how much it can give of itself.

There are many reasons to bet on this alternative, since the International Energy Agency expects this low-carbon energy source to contribute up to 400 Twh per year, which would represent 3.5% of global electricity production. If these expectations are met each year, atmospheric emissions of at least 800 megatonnes (Mt) would be avoided. With fewer numbers and more clarity, British expert Yan Lavallée explained to The Guardian the potential of geothermal energy. “Same a small body of magma of the order of a fraction of a cubic kilometer could supply energy to an entire country UK size ‘.

In this perspective, different countries are currently working to give a boost to this source of energy, which however has its drawbacks. Among the most important are greenhouse gas emissions, which do not disappear with this alternative. Its reliability and lower impact compared to other available sources tend to contradict the previous argument in territories that exploit their geothermal resources or are looking for how to do so. The most important are:

Iceland, in search of energy in its volcanoes.

Since August 2016, a team of experts have been working in the depths of one of the Reykjanes volcanoes, in the southwest of the country, to take geothermal energy to a new level. While waiting for the final results by the end of 2018, the project is impressive. Promoted by the Iceland Deep Drilling Project consortium, it has already involved drilling to depths of 4,659 meters.

At this level, and with a temperature of around 427 degrees, it reaches what the jargon calls “supercritical conditions”, with which a much higher energy content is achieved. In fact, it is estimated that provide ten times more energy than some fossil fuels. This is what this team thinks that they continue to work for volcanoes to provide energy to Iceland and even other countries.

New Zealand with the Maori as pioneers.

They say in New Zealand that centuries before geothermal energy was harnessed to generate electricity, the Maori were already using the heat from the earth for cooking, washing or heating. This gives an idea of ​​the years of experience accumulated in this area in this country and, also, of the conditions it presents to take advantage of this resource.

Its location between two tectonic plates makes it a territory particularly suited to the use of geothermal energy. With this, technological advances and the effort to take advantage of this alternative, geothermal energy is now behind more than 17% of the country’s electricity. However, with a current capacity of around 900 MW, New Zealand estimates that an additional 1,000 MW can be used to generate electricity, and they are there.

Hawaii, the path to sustainability and self-sufficiency.

With an electricity bill much more expensive than that of the rest of the United States, this state is progressing towards its energy self-sufficiency, which it hopes to achieve in 2045. Geothermal energy will play a crucial role in achieving this goal. With five active volcanoes, the resources are there. They are essentially three: heat, a fluid, which can be water or steam, and permeable rocks which allow their movement and channeling towards the surface through a well.

And like the above, in Hawaii there is no shortage, 38 MW of energy is obtained from the Puna plant alone. It is expected that the contribution of geothermal energy will go further. Thus, these installations already have the authorization to incorporate an additional 22 MW in the future. Added to this is the possibility of exploiting new resources on the island of Maui and the region of eastern Hawaii, according to the state-owned electricity company.

Here are some of the main poles of geothermal energy expansion in the world, which has another highlight in Montserrat. With an ongoing project, this British Caribbean territory is also here to take the lead in this source of energy which still has a long way to go.

Free online course: Introduction to geothermal energy