This past month, the United States Department of Energy announced seven projects to advance geothermal energy development across the country. One of the projects will occur right next to us at Union; in Niskayuna, NY. The projects will total approximately $11.4 million and will focus on geothermal energy enhancement through the implementation and research on the benefits and consequences of this renewable energy source.
Geothermal energy is a geographically bound. It cannot be easily implemented in all areas of the country, and is currently solely located in the western states of the U.S. Geothermal energy is basically using heat from the Earth as energy. It uses the warmth of the Earth as steam to heat buildings and homes. The positive aspects of this type of renewable energy source is that it does not produce CO2 emissions, it is sustainable and can work throughout the day or night, and it can be very price competitive if situated in the right area. Cons to geothermal energy include the deterioration of geysers and springs, and also the presence of toxic elements such as arsenic and mercury, which can contribute to health problems.
Currently, American geothermal electricity contributes 3.8 gigawatts of electricity on the grid. The projects implemented will help expand the current systems, and is estimated to contribute 100 GW of currently inaccessible resources. It is also supposed to remove geographical barriers of conventional geothermal resources. The projects will take place in a variety of locations across the country including, Argonne, IL; Stillwater, OK; Albuquerque, NM; Norman, OK; and at the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station.
This is important because one project is occurring in our backyard, at General Electric Company in Niskayuna. This project is research based. It will work on developing and testing new directional drilling orientation sensors that are capable of operating at 300°C for a prolonged period of time (1000 hours). This research will allow measurement while drilling (MWD) at substantially hotter temperatures needed for geothermal drilling than current tools.
Through these projects, the US will hopefully limit the amount of CO2 produced in the atmosphere and create an energy source with an essentially limitless supply of energy for billions of years to come.