Google Invests $10M in Enhanced Geothermal

In a continuing effort to develop electricity from renewable energy
cheaper than from coal, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), through its philanthropic
arm Google.org, announced $10.25 million in investments in a
breakthrough energy technology called Enhanced Geothermal Systems
(EGS).

Today’s 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 the next few years.

To advance EGS, Google.org announced funding for two companies and a university:

  • AltaRock Energy, Inc.:
    $6.25 million investment to develop innovative technologies to achieve
    significant cost reductions and improved performance in EGS projects.
  • Potter Drilling, Inc.:
    $4 million investment in two tranches, to develop new approaches to
    lower the cost and expand the range of deep hard rock drilling, a
    critical element to large-scale deployment of EGS.
  • Southern Methodist University Geothermal Lab:
    $489,521 grant to improve understanding of the size and distribution of
    geothermal energy resources and to update geothermal mapping of North
    America.

"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."

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