Nearly one million people could benefit from a new project in Oregon, where deep waters would be turned into steam by deep geothermal activity of dormant volcanoes and the turbines will be powered without producing greenhouse gases.
Altarock, the company in charge of drilling, managed to get approval for the project by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The first drills will take place into the Newberry volcano, which has been inactive for more than 1600 years.
The plan is to drill two wells, and the water will be pumped from one and injected in the other and back, while being heated by the geothermal activity of the volcano to 600 degrees. David Blackwell, an earth sciences professor at Southern Methodist University and an advisor to this project says the process is similar to gas fracturing. However, in this case, it is safe and harmless.
The roads needed to transport the equipment are already built, the pads where the equipment will be mounted are not more than 5 acres, and the wells will be too small to have much environmental impact.
If this project is successful, it could lead to an increase of the geothermal power production in the U.S. by a factor of 20. Not only geothermal power is clean, has without emissions but it also operates continuously, regardless of the time of day or weather conditions, and can be safely be named “baseload power,” just like coal or nuclear.
Of course, generating power from geothermal sources could turn out to be very expensive, especially when this has not been tested yet.