An American startup wants to get deeper into the ground than ever before. The geothermal energy stored there should provide almost unlimited clean electricity.
The need to increase the use of renewable energy is once again evident these days. If states do not want to subject themselves to the whims of dictators with inferiority complexes, they need their own energy sources.
Although there is almost unlimited thermal energy stored in the Earth, geothermal energy has played a somewhat secondary role so far. In Switzerland, about 15 percent of all buildings are heated in this way, but geothermal energy is not used to generate electricity in this country. Globally, the share of the electricity mix is less than 1 percent.
Until now, generating electricity from geothermal energy has been complex, expensive and often only economic in areas where heat finds its own way near the surface, for example through volcanic activity. With completely new technology, geothermal energy should be able to be generated anywhere.
Warm and warm at 500 degrees
Startup Quaise Energy, a division of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), wants to drill to a depth of 20 kilometers. Temperatures here are around 500 degrees Celsius. Thus, the Quaise penetrates much deeper than the previous record holder for depth, the Kola well on the northern Russian peninsula of the same name, which reached 12.2 kilometers.
However, extreme temperatures deep in the earth are a problem for drilling tools. So Quaise wants to use high-frequency electromagnetic waves to split the rocks and clear the way down.
Coal-fired power plants will be converted
At temperatures there, water reaches a supercritical state, being both liquid and gaseous. In this case, water can be used to generate electricity with a high degree of efficiency; A similar process is also currently used in coal-fired power plants.
So Quaise also suggests converting the sites of old coal-fired power plants, which would then generate electricity using heat from the earth rather than burning coal. Drilling can be done almost anywhere in the world.
The startup has raised $62 million in venture capital so far, according to Axios. The first experimental wells with a depth of up to one kilometer will be conducted in 2024. Quasie wants to generate clean electricity at a coal-fired converted power plant as early as 2028.
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