Scientists plan to make a volcano into a generator
Speaking of Bond villains and energy sources, here’s an idea with no possible drawbacks: Turning a dormant volcano into a roiling cauldron of geothermal energy.
A team of scientists from Seattle-based AltaRock Energy, Inc. and Davenport Newberry Holdings LLC has announced plans to harness one of Mother Nature’s most powerful energy sources by pumping 24 million gallons of water into the side of a dormant volcano in Central Oregon. The team hopes that the water will return to the surface boiling hot, at which point it can be used to generate clean and cheap energy – without the explosive side effects and liquid magma associated with active volcanoes.
The idea is that if you inject millions of gallons of water into the rock, fracking-style, the volcano’s natural stored heat will boil the water, and the steam can be used to generate electricity. All power plants operate on that concept — boil water, use the steam to run a turbine — but most of them heat the water using coal or nuclear. Harnessing the earth’s heat is cleaner and safer.
Mostly. There is the small factor of how they’ll be pumping 800 gallons of water per minute into the ground, which the ground tends to find kind of unsettling. That whole thing where fracking wastewater injections cause earthquakes? That doesn’t necessarily stop being a concern just because your intentions are good. The scientists have sited the project far away from cities, just in case.
Still, it’s a good enough idea that the Department of Energy and investors like Google have backed the project to the tune of almost $28 million. Now we just have to hope Google doesn’t abandon their “Don’t be evil” motto in favor of “Control the awesome power of a volcano and possibly earthquakes, muahaha.”