« The Velorution Hits DC | home | Schweitzer on Energy Policy at the DNC »

AltaRock Taking Geothermal Energy to the Next Level

I haven't done much research on geothermal energy, although I did a post about geothermal heat pumps a while back. But I stumbled upon a company named AltaRock Energy who believes they have a scalable geothermal solution. It looks very interesting.

As AltaRock points out on this page, the nice thing about geothermal energy is its 24x7 availability. I love wind power, but wind has a major achilles heel: the wind doesn't always blow & might not be blowing at the most critical, high demand periods. How can you rely on that? Without major improvements in battery technology (which is very expensive by the way), you can't. The same thing holds true for solar since they sun doesn't help much at night.

Geothermal's problem has been the fact that there aren't that many places that fit the conventional geothermal hot spot description. These are spots that have natural reservoirs of super-hot water deep in the ground. Think Iceland & Yellowstone National Park. We've long known we can tap into those hot water reservoirs, pump the liquid up & use the steam to spin turbines & create electricity. The issue is that there aren't enough of these naturally occurring hot spots to exploit (plus they often reside far away from populated areas).

AltaRock has a solution. They inject cold water at high pressure deep into the earth ("hot basement rock"). The water fractures the rock & essentially creates pathways & areas where the water can pool up. As the water flows through the hot basement rock, it heats up. Hot water is then pulled up to the surface via wells. This diagram below shows how the entire system works:

Underwriting this company's development are major VC firms like Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, and Google.org. AltaRock just closed a $26 million second round of financing [PDF requires Adobe Acrobat].

I couldn't find any information on costs associated with the AltaRock geothermal system, but the idea seems really interesting on the surface. Who knows? Maybe it's incredibly expensive, or maybe it's an EROEI dog ... but certainly one to watch.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Comments

I just came across your website and your blog is great. I am especially interested in your geothermal posts (since I just had a system installed). I want to point out that I don't understand why the state is not supporting this renewable HVAC system?? Yes, it's very expensive up front, but we also must consider what our major energy drain is in the northeast... heating! So, why not get this thing going in the state of New York??? While I think solar and wind play crucial roles in renewable energy, why limit this? In your previous geothermal post you mentioned downsides: one of them is that geothermal can only be used in a forced air or radiant heat application, not radiators. So, if you had old fashioned radiators (like I did), you will have to remove them and either install a radiant or forced air duct. This adds to the overall cost. To give you an idea of the economics, based on my previous years heating oil use, I would have spent ~ $400/month (spread over 12 months) to heat my home in the 2008-2009 season. My geothermal system (if run fairly consistently for BOTH heating and air conditioning) should be at most $125 per month. But this does not account for the fact that I will no longer be emitting uncontrolled air pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide into my environment... what's the cost on that?

Post a comment


recommended at amazon.com

Add to Google