Monday, July 13, 2009

Do-It-Yourself Geothermal

Until now, the little town of Anderson Springs in Lake County was known as a place to hike and for its seismic activity. Soon it could be known as town that revolutionized the way we harness geothermal energy.

A start up company called AltaRock is testing a way to essentially create geothermal energy.

Traditionally, geothermal power has come from tapping existing pockets of steam beneath the earth's crust; steam that is then used to power turbines and create electricity.

Like any form of alternative enregy, be it solar, wind, etc., the challenge with geothermal has been that, in order to harness it, you have to go where the steam pockets are. That may no longer be the case.

AltaRock is testing a new method whereby they drill down to superheated rock (in the case of Anderson Springs, a drill boring of 2 miles) and then inject water into shaft, creating steam off the superheted rock below.

If it works, the upside is limitless.

However, as we have seen with other forms of renewable energy, the project is not without its detractors.

Solar arrays have been opposed by conservationists who fear damage to desert ecosystems; wind turbines have been opposed by animal rights advocates who fear bird strikes (and by Kennedys who like their ocean views).

Now the residents of Anderson Springs are speaking out against the AltaRock project, fearing that it will exacerbate an already dicey seismic situation, and cause earth quakes.

It's an interesting experiment to watch play out.