New tech can make geothermal energy as common as solar power
Geothermal power is what keeps Iceland warm during the long winter months. It is plentiful, free, and green energy thanks to Iceland's volcanoes.
Geothermal power no longer has to rely on accessing boiling hot water from under the ground thanks to new technology that was developed by the Swedish firm Climeon.
The company, founded in 2011, says that it can make geothermal (heat from under the ground) power as accessible as solar or wind power by using low-temperature heat. That would makd it readily available almost anywhere with absolutely no volcanoes required.
Climeon can now scale up in the five countries in which it works after the Bill Gates-backed Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) announced $12.5 million in funding. BEV's investment criteria are that a new green technology, when scaled up, must be capable of cutting 500 million tons of greenhouse gases every year. They are counting on Climeon's geothermal technology to be able to do that.
The new technology operates in temperatures between 70-120 degrees Celsius and uses the temperature differences between hot and cold water to produce electricity. And unlike solar and wind power, the weather conditions do not affect it, and this method is available 24/7.
How can they do that? Geothermal heat can be found almost everywhere on earth, or the technology can use the waste heat from industrial processes. By using the temperature difference of the water – or the heat exchange of gas or steam with water – Climeon Heat Power system converts the wasted heat into renewable green electricity.
The Climeon power units operate on lower pressure than traditional heat power methods so it can be fairly compact and with its modular design, it can be used for smaller installations and multiple units can be put together for larger installations. Low pressure also uses much less energy for pumping, and the automated software in the power units allow for remote control and monitoring of the system. Each unit can provide 150 KW of power.
The cost of the electricity produced varies depending on the size of the project and access to the heat source, but some of the projects have provided electricity for €40 ($45) per MWh, Joachim Karthäuser, the company’s chief technology officer told Fast Company. That's about the lower end of the cost of wind or solar power in Europe.
The funding from Breakthrough Energy Ventures is actually going to Baseland Capital, a company that finances and develops Climeon projects. This allows Baseland Capital to own and run the geothermal units for companies that do not wish to own the plants like steel companies. The industrial company enters into a long-term contract to purchase the energy produced.
Bringing more green energy technology to the forefront, especially in places that are not suitable for solar or wind power, will help us improve the chances to become carbon neutral and stop climate change in its tracks.