Google.org Invests US $10 Million in Geothermal Energy Technology

Google, through its philanthropic arm Google.org, announced US $10.25 million in investments in an energy technology called Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS). The 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.

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

  • AltaRock Energy Inc.: US $6.25 million investment to develop innovative technologies to achieve significant cost reductions and improved performance in EGS projects.
  • Potter Drilling Inc.: US $4 million investment in two rounds, 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: US $489,521 grant to improve understanding of the size and distribution of geothermal energy resources and to update geothermal mapping of North America.

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