Tapping into Volcanos to Find New Renewable Energy Sources
By admin October 31, 2016

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volcanoes-691939_1280 In an era of increasing global warming where producers are researching new ways of generating energy in the most sustainable way, a breakthrough has been reached regarding renewables, more specifically, related to water superheated by magma in Iceland.

An interesting State-financed project, the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) had been set up in 2000 to investigate the nature of magma levels in the country and whether it could be possible to turn this incredibly hot molten rock into a provider of electricity and energy. The already existing form of energy production from magma, called geothermal power production, can be exploited by Iceland, which is built on about 130 volcanoes resting above a divergent plate boundary, bringing a continuous supply of hot, fresh magma up from the mantle just a few kilometers below.

Icelanders have capitalized on this, and now generate more than a quarter of their electricity through geothermal, accessing boiling temperature water within 2km of the surface. But even more can be done: exploiting the high temperatures of the water heathen up by the molten rock from the inner Earth could represent an incredible solution to create sustainable and renewable energy. In fact, the water heated by magma, reaching temperatures up to 1,000°C, exists in a state described as “supercritical”, where it behaves as neither a true liquid, nor a true gas, and is capable of retaining a phenomenal amount of energy. Supercritical water can generate up to ten times more power than conventional geothermal sources which operate at around 300°C.

The idea would be to drill the soil to find deep circulating water which penetrates the rock around a magma chamber below the Reykjanes peninsula near Reykjavik; once found, this water will eventually be piped up to the surface and its heat turned into usable energy.

One can ask if this could be possible outside Iceland, which presents an unusual conformation of its soil and for this reason is full of volcanoes and hot magma. However, while the country has one of the highest geothermal electricity productions in terms of total energy share, it is neither the highest, nor is it in the top five countries for total geothermal capacity. In fact, the countries in the top five may come as a surprise.

The absolute biggest geothermal electricity producer in the world is the US, with around 3,450 MW of capacity in 2015, largely centered in California (a typical nuclear power station produces around 1,000 MW). Next up are the Philippines and Indonesia, at 1,870 and 1,340 MW respectively. Mexico and New Zealand trail at a little over 1,000 MW each, and Iceland (665 MW) comes in seventh behind Italy (916 MW).

Volcanoes are the common factor in the geothermal resources of all these countries. However, three conditions must subsist to render this very particular form of exploitation possible: firstly, there must be heat, then it must be accessible, and finally you must be able to move water around it. Different characteristics of the rocks (which are more or less porous), too much distance of the magma from the soil and the absence of water could render the task incredibly expensive and difficult.

In any case, anywhere with active volcanoes could potentially benefit from the high temperature geothermal exploration being pioneered by the IDDP. That includes every country around the Pacific Ring of Fire and many other countries around the world. senza-titoloGeothermal energy will usually be found near active volcanoes.  Eric Gaba, CC BY-SA

If the IDDP succeeds, this will be a key moment for sustainable energy production – and will help in our ability to wean off non- renewable energy sources and to tackle many issues related to climate change.

For more information:

Magma power: how superheated molten rock could provide renewable energy

IDDP website

Geothermal Power Generation in the World 2010-2014 Update Report

Tapping into the energy that lies deep underground

Stop mucking with Geothermal

Thanks for sharing !

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