Categories
News

Meet 5 Startups Using Earth’s Heat to Save the Planet • CableFree TV

There are a few energy sources that are “free” here on Earth, namely wind, sun, water and geothermal energy. Humanity has been using hydropower and wind for thousands of years, and we’ve gotten pretty good at harnessing the power of the sun. But with geothermal energy, we still don’t make good use of the heat that is generated deep within the planet.

Most commercial scale geothermal installations are located in geological hotspots such as Northern California and Iceland. On a smaller scale, many homeowners have drilled shallow wells in their yards or buried loops for heating and cooling. But to truly unleash the potential of geothermal energy around the world, and to do so profitably, we will need new ways to drill deep and extract the earth’s heat.

At a time when the world is undergoing an energy transition, many energy professionals have been talking at length about controllable baseload power. That’s a lot of jargon. “Sendable” means that grid operators can request a power plant to produce electricity at any time and it will be delivered. And “base load” means power that can always be on, no matter the weather. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power are not a source of base load per se. Another thing is if they are connected to batteries to store energy for use when the wind is calm or the sun is not shining. The combination of renewables and batteries is becoming more common, but batteries remain expensive, and why not have more options than just that?

To truly unlock the potential of geothermal energy around the world, and to do so profitably, we will need new ways to drill deep and extract the earth’s heat.

Geothermal power is often marketed as a carbon-free baseload source of energy, so energy professionals are sympathetic to it. In a geothermal power plant, the working fluid, often water, is pumped underground, where it is heated, and then rises again to pass through a heat exchanger or power a turbine.

The source of heat is almost limitless. The earth is constantly producing about 44 terawatts of heat, about half of them are due to natural radioactivity. That’s about 385,000 terawatt-hours of energy released every year, which is much more than global energy consumption, which in 2019 was just under 23,000 terawatt-hours. If we could use some of the Earth’s heat, we would have a lot of energy at our disposal.

The potential of geothermal energy coincides with the impending decline of the fossil fuel industry, which has forced many engineers to rethink their careers. It just so happens that many of the drilling techniques developed for the oil and gas industry align well with what is required to spread geothermal energy.

There are a number of startups trying to turn geothermal energy from a niche source of energy into a source that could be widely used. Here are five that I have observed.

Quise Energy

If there was an award for sexiest geothermal technology, Quise Energy would probably be the winner.

By Peter Kavinsky

Peter Kavinsky is the Executive Editor at cablefreetv.org