Deep geothermal technologies, such as the gyrotron, may be the key to harnessing the heat stored below the Earth’s crust to make abundant zero emissions energy. For more, read Deep Geothermal – One Renewable Energy Source to Rule Them All?
- Gyrotrons, which produce high power beams, are currently used in fusion research. Paul Woskov, an MIT researcher, has posed the idea of using the technology to drill geothermal wells that can reach the Earth’s mantle.
- MIT spinoff Quaise Energy received a grant from the Department of Energy to scale up Woskov’s lab experiments using a larger gyrotron. The goal is to vaporize a hole 100 times the depth of Woskov’s current experiments by sometime next year.
- Quaise Energy plans to start harvesting energy from pilot geothermal wells that reach rock temperatures at up to 500°C by 2026. The team then hopes to begin repurposing coal and natural gas generating plants using its system.
- Many of the skills developed over the past century by the oil and gas industry are readily transferable to deep geothermal, meaning that a ready-made, well-trained workforce is already available. Current fossil fuel infrastructure can be readily repurposed to rapidly advance geothermal energy.
Path to 100% Perspective
A variety of technologies will have a role to play along the Path to 100%. Deep geothermal is an emerging technology that can help ease the transition. What makes this technology exciting is that it’s compatible with existing thermal power plants, which can be converted to run on steam instead of coal and natural gas. Building conditions to enable investment in thermal balancing power plants is a key step to frontloading net zero and adding geothermal energy is one way to make this possible. There are many other renewable sources in use today that are the subject of scale-up research and expanded deployment, including ocean energy, bioenergy, and renewable synthetic fuels from Power-to-X (P2X). Ocean, biomass, and geothermal are not forecast to get to the scale that solar and wind could reach, but all are important. All of these technologies are part of the analysis and discussion around the transition to a 100% renewable energy future.