Hot Prospects for Geothermal Power in Iceland

Sean Kilgrow, Vice President for Geothermal Energy at Gibraltar-based Power Chips, outlined advantages of using solid-state thermal conversion devices in a low temperature environment at the International Geothermal Conference in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Gibraltar, Iceland – September 19, 2003 [] “There is enough potential energy in the earth’s crust to meet many of the world’s energy needs,” said Kilgrow, who delivered his paper, “Harnessing of Low-Temperature Geothermal and Waste Heat Using Power Chips in Varmaraf Heat Exchangers,” that was prepared with the assistance of Dr. Arni Geirsson, of Varmaraf, and Dr. Thorsteinn Sigfusson of the University of Iceland. According to Kilgrow, geothermal heat offers a huge potential energy resource that can be harnessed using turbines (steam greater than 150 degrees C) that are about 1,300 GW and that lower temperature geothermal resources may provide about twice those using binary systems. He maintains that his company’s devices mounted in a suitable heat exchanger can extend this even further. “Therefore, the total geothermal power that can potentially be generated with this technology is on the order of 4,000 GW,” said Kilgrow. “For comparison, the total installed power of all electricity generators in the world is about 3,300 GWe. Even if a small fraction of this potential is realized, the economic and environmental implications are huge. Naturally, geothermal energy is only available in certain geologically active places. However, with hydrogen emerging as an energy carrier, the transport of energy from geothermal areas to other regions becomes a realistic option.” Kilgrow claimed that geothermal plants dedicated to his company’s arrays would be much different than existing plants, because no magnetic induction is required to generate electricity and no moving parts are required — just heat. He envisions that the geothermal plant of the future could possibly make turbine-powered plants, driven by flash steam cycle and binary Rankine cycle, inefficient and obsolete. “Operating at these efficiencies changes the economics of geothermal development, giving developers more electricity to sell per unit of geothermal heat,” said Kilgrow. “The increase in monetary return will have a ripple effect, creating a greater demand for exploration and field service work.” Kilgrow maintains there are substantial environmental benefits as the added power generated is clean and replaces fossil fuel-based generators. According to Kilgrow, with deployment of the generator in the form of a fluid/fluid heat exchanger, substantial opportunities open up in retrofitting existing thermal plants of various designs for higher efficiency, as well as in building new plants, particularly in lower temperature geothermal areas.
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