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Developing Geothermal Energy at Low Temps

Taking a quick look at the low-temperature geothermal developments and prospects in Mexico, Canada, and the U.S.

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6 Reader Comments
1 of 6
September 22, 2010
Is it possible that Low Temperature Geothermal plants could be built in conjunction with Solar Thermal plants whereby the Geothermal side of the operation extracts heat up a medium to a certain temperature and a solar thermal plant heats it up to a higher temperature? This would be a broad application since peak useage on the grid would coincide with the daylight hours when the system would produce at its maximum power output. This type of "marriage" bewtween renewable technologies is something that should be studdied more closely in the future. Another example could be wind turbines that are used to pump water back into hydro damms during low demand hours. This would act as a storage asystem for wind power. I would be cuious to know if these types of systems were studied in more detail and if their costs justify real life applications. Should make for a good article. Thank you.
2 of 6
September 22, 2010
I like Angus's ideas.

Heat from the Street was an article that appeared in the Economist some time ago which discussed using natural aquifers to store heat for winter and cold for summer, not only for space heating but for cooling asphalt in summer and removing snow in winter.

The possible efficiency gains from such uses are pretty stunning.
3 of 6
September 22, 2010
For a variation on the above comments, two projects in central Canada with construction of about 45 houses each have used solar thermal heat,gathered in the summer via roof collectors and then stored in bedrock via a field of bore holes, to heat the houses for the winter. The heat source declines over the winter, so some boost is needed in late winter, but its central Canada after all. Only running cost is pumping.
4 of 6
September 28, 2010
Interested in implementing in Guatemala. A lot of hot spots found. How can we get detailed information on setting up a plant for private co-generation?
5 of 6
September 30, 2010
It sounds like there is no excuse for America not converting immediately over to Geothermal power production. It takes 10 to 50 billion dollars to build one nuclear power plant. If that funding was transferred to Geothermal, we would be fossil free in less than 10 years and created hundreds of thousands of jobs. Is there anyone getting this information to President Obama and the Energy counsel?
6 of 6
September 30, 2010
Before deciding that low temperature geothermal is the next silver bullet, one should take into account the basic principles of physics. The amount of energy that can be obtained from a geothermal plant is a function of the difference between the ambient air temperature or achievable cooling temperature and the temperature of the geothermal fluid. A geothermal system with 300C plus working fluid temperature will produce many times the energy for a given flow volume and plant cost compared to one drawing from a 73C hot spring. Pursuing low temperature geothermal as a national policy is something like exploring for oil with a 500' water well drill rig.

The second limiting factor for low temperature geothermal has to do with geology. Shallow surface features that produce geothermal hot water are scattered far and wide around the intermountain west, typically with poor or non-existent grid interconnection and limited individual potential capacity.

If we were serious about developing geothermal energy we would go where the energy is.

As the tectonic plates slid past each other a feature known as the Yellowstone Hot Spot, the footprint of the Yellowstone mega-volcano, left its path under what is now the Snake River Plain all the way from Boise to Yellowstone. The basic geology underlying this area consists of a highly permeable lava aquifier overlying an impermeable cap layer. Under that at relatively shallow depths of a mile or so is one of the highest temperature gradient access points to the earth's core heat on the planet.

The heat energy from this single geologic feature is likely sufficient to provide a large portion of the nation's energy needs for thousands of years into the future. Any rational society not driven by short term tunnel vision would be investing sufficient capital to develop the technology to capture this resource.
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