On the energy potential of geothermal power
Like solar thermal power, geothermal power is too often neglected. Indeed, the Bush administration has proposed zeroing out the geothermal energy program for two years running.
But a major 2007 study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, “The Future of Geothermal Energy” (a 372-page PDF), reveals the potential if we redouble our efforts toward this zero-carbon power source. The MIT-led panel of scientists, economic experts, and engineers found that Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) that use “heat-mining technology, which is designed to extract and utilize the earth’s stored thermal energy” could contribute 10 percent of baseload power by mid-century:
The panel thinks that with a combined public/private investment of about $800 million to $1 billion over a 15-year period, EGS technology could be deployed commercially on a timescale that would produce more than 100,000 MWe or 100 GWe of new capacity by 2050. This amount is approximately equivalent to the total R&D investment made in the past 30 years to EGS internationally, which is still less than the cost of a single, new-generation, clean-coal power plant.