…from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger
Or is just about to. The latest environmental horror in their eyes is the geothermal energy – I am not joking. I am certain that when finally it would appear that the solar energy could be efficient and economical, they would protest against it, inventing numerous emotional and ‘scientific’ arguments. The green movement has been usurped by the misanthropic totalitarians, desiring the demise of Western societies. The remaining handful of genuine environmentalists matters no more.[Fog of Chaos May 2011 – Daň strachu and Fog of Chaos April 2014 – Bad Moon Raising]
As expected, America has the biggest geothermal show, generating 3.4 gigawatts, but that is only 0.4% of US usage. At this stage it is unlikely to save anybody from the dependence on the Arab oil, or for that matter, on the so called fossil fuels. However, it is well known that the recent developments in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing resulted in significant increase in US crude oil reserves and that that happened despite the obstructionist administration of comrade Obama.
I hope to deal with fracking and objections to it at some not too distant future.
On a small scale and in less ambitious ways geotherm seems to be a goer. I recall visiting a farm in central Queensland where scalding water gushed from the ground; it had to be channelled via an open through for almost a half of a kilometre to cool to the ambient temperature (35°C) for sheep and cattle to drink. Almost boiling water would not need much additional energy to convert to steam for a turbine/electricity generator or one could simply drill deeper. It is done in many places, mainly where water is near surface, 100 – 400 metres, such as New Zealand, Iceland, some Pacific Islands and even California.
So far still inventive Americans came up with an improvement – enhanced geothermal systems. EGS is geothermal fracking. Millions of litres of cold water, with some chemicals, are injected at high pressure to wells leading to shearing of the hot deep rocks. Water can be pumped through the fractures, heated and returned to the surface. In Desert Park, Nevada EGS increased the productivity of the existing wells by 38% and became the first project to supply power grid. There are estimates that EGS could, in time, provide 10% of US electricity. France, Great Britain, Australia and Germany are investigating the new process.
Unfortunately – Business Spectator: “A billion dollars is a lot of money, especially when it delivers the dimming of a green dream and a lot of frustration for investors. This is today’s story for enhanced geothermal energy, or ‘hot rock mining’, as some in the media will have it.
The technology’s travails have been revealed in a report commissioned by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and it does not make especially happy reading. ARENA asked an international expert panel chaired by economist Quentin Grafton of the Australian National University to canvass the local opportunities for geothermal. The shorthand response was “not good”.
This is of more than esoteric interest. Bear in mind that geothermal was a technology touted by the Gillard government as one of the big green hopes for the ‘clean energy future’ just three years ago. In the Treasury paper ‘Strong growth, low pollution’ published by Wayne Swan and Greg Combet to support the carbon tax argument, the government endorsed the view of consultants that geothermal power generation could fuel up to 23 per cent of mid-century electricity production, helping to shove coal to the sidelines of baseload supply. …”
I should mention that I am not against encouragement of the mankind-friendly inventions in the form of a mild, short-term tax relief. However, billions of taxpayers’ money channelled to charlatans with correct political connections discourage the genuine innovators and out-of-the-box thinkers.
“… Grafton and his panel say the pursuit of geothermal development has stalled and the sector is facing a funding crisis as many private sector investors exit the field after spending $828 million (or $1 billion if you translate the sum in to today’s dollar values), about 13 per cent of which was obtained from taxpayers as subsidies. … “Utility-scale power generation from geothermal is not cost-competitive in 2014 and is not expected to be so in 2020,” they reported. They added that the technology might become competitive with fossil fuel generation in 2030 “but only with a high carbon price” and if it can sort out a few other hassles. … As Grafton and the panel see it, the future for geothermal is remote — literally not figuratively — and ironically is tied up with green radicals’ bete noir, shale gas production.
They suggest that the most prospective market for the technology out to 2030 is in locations off the power grid where there are commercial scale applications for electricity or direct heat. In the case of shale gas, the Cooper Basin, where it is most likely Australia’s first commercial shale operations will occur, also has some of the best ‘hot rock’ resources.
As Grafton & co point out, the gas needs to be processed in situ to remove impurities before being sent on its way to the next stages of production for the market. At present, this is done using the gas as feedstock. Geothermal energy could be an alternative.
Even here, the geothermal people have some barriers to climb to make their product cost-competitive. One of the bugbears is drilling charges, which make up a big part of geothermal upfront costs as the rigs have to bore up to five kilometres in to the ground and this is no task for just any old kit. …
Another irony, given the carrying-on by the Greens, some Labor types and ‘Lock the Gate’ etcetera, is that geothermal development requires hydraulic fracturing (the much demonised ‘fracking’.) A social licence to operate could be an issue, the panel notes.”
There was an incident in Basel, Switzerland in 2006 where geothermal operation caused seismic disturbance, over 3 Richter scale, leading to minor property damage. The project was abandoned, thought it should be noted that Basel sits on a historically active fault: Earthquakes Induced by a Stimulation of Enhanced Geothermal System bellow Basel .
Obviously, there are some risks, as in any activity. Green-scum will demonise anything which helps, or even potentially helps, the mankind to survive and prosper. At the moment, the Wikipedia lists relatively few detrimental environmental effects; in my opinion, relatively minor. This will change as soon as EGT becames economical.