Dirty Energy & Fuel 4455165970_62896932de

Published on March 7th, 2011 | by Shellee Tyler

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Iceland May Unlock New Geothermal Source Hidden In The Center of the Earth?

Energy from the Earth’s core as a clean energy alternative? Maybe. Scientists at the University of California-Davis are working on developing such an option after they discovered a rich seam of the molten rock relatively close to the earth’s surface in Iceland. The scientists now believe that this bit of magma could be a new source of clean energy that could easily be harnessed.

The team was initially drilling a well as part of the Icelandic Deep Drilling Project in which they were actually looking for incredibly hot water under ground and under high pressure that could be used as a sort of energy.

That discovery was made in 2009, but it’s taken years to test the magma.  Researchers believe that that steam could generate up to 25MW of energy, which is enough to power up to 30,000 homes.

Magma is a great potential energy source because it maintains the ultra-hot temperatures at the center of the earth (the core!).

Let’s just hope that this new discovery doesn’t destroy the environment in the drilling area. Every source of energy disturbs the land around it in some way, let’s just hope they keep it as clean as possible and produce some much-needed jobs.

“We estimated that this steam could generate 25 megawatts of electricity if passed through a suitable turbine, which is enough electricity to power 25,000 to 30,000 homes,” Wilfred Elders, a professor emeritus of geology in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of California, Riverside, who led the research team. “What makes this well an attractive source of energy is that typical high-temperature geothermal wells produce only 5 to 8 megawatts of electricity from 300 Celsius or 570 Fahrenheit wet steam.”

This accidental discovery was pretty rare and this energy option isn’t available everywhere, Elders notes that in anyplace with young volcanic rocks (in Iceland or other parts of the world), it should easy to find reasonably shallow bodies of magma.

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Photo Credit:  Sverrir Thor via Flickr




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