Burning Stuff is so 16th Century

Guest Essay by Kip Hansen – 4 November 2020

The image used here is of the charcoal-burning kilns in the Adirondacks, much of which were clear-cut in the late-1700s and early 1800s to provide timber and charcoal for the big cities of the Northeastern U.S. – particularly for New York City.

Quoting from Joel T. Headley’s “The Adirondack: or Life in the Woods” written in 1849:

“The first harvesting of the Adirondack forests began shortly after the English replaced the Dutch as the landlords of New Netherlands and changed its name to New York [September 8th, 1664] . Logging operations generated wealth, opened up land for farming, and removed the cover that provided a haven for Indians.”

“After the Revolutionary War, the Crown lands passed to the people of New York State. Needing money to discharge war debts, the new government sold nearly all the original public acreage – some 7 million acres – for pennies an acre. Lumbermen were welcomed to the interior, with few restraints: “You have no conception of the quantity of lumber that is taken every winter… A great deal of land is bought of government solely for the pine on it, and after that is cut down, it is allowed to revert back to the State to pay its taxes.”

Why “16th Century”?

In England, there was an Energy Crisis caused by widespread deforestation through the cutting of wood for building materials and for fuel for heating and cooking.  This led to a gradual shift from wood burning to coal burning in the century following 1550 or so.  Coal burning also supplied the fuel, the energy, for Britain’s early Industrial Revolution. 

We all know that humans have been “burning stuff” for the heat energy available from the rapid oxidation of wood and other plant material (grasses, straw, dung, etc.) since early man “discovered” and harnessed fire    –  perhaps as early as 1.5 million years ago in Africa– and subsequently learned how to keep a fire going through saving hot coal in ashes and how to start fires through friction and later using flints and, eventually, chemical matches

And we have been doing so ever since.  We burn firewood, we burn peat blocks, we burn wood pellets and wood chips, we burn petroleum products and natural gas, we burn trash and municipal waste.  All for the heat produced.  We heat our homes and our factories, we use the heat to make electricity in huge power plants.  Our transportation systems depend on internal combustion and jet engines that burn gasolines and diesel fuel.

After all these years, despite all of our scientific advances, all but a small fraction of the world’s energy supply comes from “burning stuff”:

There is hope — we can and should do better than this.

In this essay, I will look at Geothermal Energy. [  Lots of illustrations, not too much text. ]

A recent headline declares:

Geothermal energy is poised for a big breakout

David Roberts at VOX writes an excellent informative, well-worth-reading, article [link just above] on the advances made in the geothermal energy arena:

“After many years of failure to launch, new companies and technologies have brought geothermal out of its doldrums, to the point that it may finally be ready to scale up and become a major player in clean energy. In fact, if its more enthusiastic backers are correct, geothermal may hold the key to making 100 percent clean electricity available to everyone in the world.“

Iceland’s National Energy Authority explains:

“Iceland is a pioneer in the use of geothermal energy for space heating. Generating electricity with geothermal energy has increased significantly in recent years. Geothermal power facilities currently generate 25% of the country’s total electricity production.

“During the course of the 20th century, Iceland went from what was one of Europe’s poorest countries, dependent upon peat and imported coal for its energy, to a country with a high standard of living where practically all stationary energy is derived from renewable resources. In 2014, roughly 85% of primary energy use in Iceland came from indigenous renewable resources. Geothermal sources accounts for 66% of Iceland’s primary energy use.”

In the United States, the federal Department of Energy [DOE] issued a major report on geothermal energy in May of 2019.  [Various versions and chapters of the report are available at the link.]    One of the featured images is this:

[GHP = Geothermal Heat Pump    EGS = Enhanced Geothermal Systems]

Why is the core of the Earth hot?

“There are three main sources of heat in the deep earth: (1) heat from when the planet formed and accreted, which has not yet been lost; (2) frictional heating, caused by denser core material sinking to the center of the planet; and (3) heat from the decay of radioactive elements.

Quentin Williams, University of California at Santa Cruz

You or your neighbor may already be using geothermal energy to heat (and cool) your home.  Residential heat pump systems are already very popular in many areas of the United States. These systems use the relative warmth of ground water (well water) and a heat pump.  A Heat Pump is just like an air conditioner, but, in this case,  instead of pumping heat out of a residence, it “concentrates” the heat from the well water and pumps that heat into the house.    It can also work in the `opposite direction, and pump heat out of your house into the well water.

Here is a good description:

“Open Loop Low Temperature Systems

Since open loop geothermal projects involve the direct use of low temperature groundwater from wells, this category will be the primary topic. In a typical open loop system, geothermal water is brought up from a well and circulated through a heat exchanger (heat pump). After heat is extracted from or added to the water, the water is then either returned to the underground aquifer or original well by injection or discharged onto the ground or into or under a surface water source.”

Closed Loop Low Temperature Systems

The closed loop method uses a contained fluid (often an environmentally friendly antifreeze/water solution) that circulates through a series of pipes (called a loop) under the ground or beneath the water of a pond or lake and into a building. In the winter, an electric compressor and heat exchanger pulls the heat from the pipes and sends the warmed air via a duct system throughout the building. In the summer, the process is reversed as the pipes draw heat away from the building and carry it back to the ground or water outside where it is absorbed.  – Water Well Journal

Geothermal for Utility Scale Electrical Production

For the electrical production sector, the current high-end systems, labelled Binary Power Plants in the DOE Geothermal Diversity diagram above, are currently in use around the world:

Here’s a description from Ormat Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: ORA) which has operating geothermal plants in 25 countries:

Binary Technology

Binary plants are ideal for geothermal reservoirs to maximize sustainability and return on investment. Binary plants maximize sustainability by reinjecting 100% of the geothermal fluid, maintaining reservoir pressures. Return on Investment (ROI) is maximized due to much lower operating costs and higher resilience to changing reservoir conditions thereby maintaining higher efficiency over the long term. Binary technology can be utilized on a wide range of resources from low enthalpy to high. Multiple high enthalpy binary facilities are in service around the world.

How It Works

The fluid is extracted from an underground reservoir and flows from the wellhead through pipelines to heat exchangers in the Ormat Energy Converter (OEC).

Inside the heat exchangers, the geothermal fluid heats and vaporizes a secondary working fluid which is organic, with a low boiling point.  The organic vapors drive the turbine [much like the  steam in a steam turbine – kh] and then are condensed in a condenser, which is cooled by either air or water.  The turbine rotates the generator.  Condensed fluid is recycled back into the heat exchangers by a pump, completing the cycle in a closed system. The cooled geothermal fluid is re-injected into the reservoir.”  — Ormat, Binary Technology.”

An example of an operating plant is  Ormat’s  McGinness Hills Complex  in Nevada, which produces 143 MW or 3,400 MWh a day.    The larger Geysers complex in California produces about 21,600 MWh .  This is comparable to the average coal-fired power plant, which at about 600 MW,  produces 14,400 MWh.   A very large coal-fired complex, like the Gibson Generating Station in Indiana, produces approximately  74,000 MWh.

The United States has lots and lots of geothermal potential.

Global Geothermal Production

According to Statistica:

“The installed capacity of geothermal energy has gradually increased worldwide over the last decade, reaching 13.93 gigawatts in 2019. Geothermal technologies are among the growing renewable energy trend occurring across the world, as environmentally friendly technologies are sought after due to lower emissions and the use of a renewable source.”

“After the United States, Indonesia and the Philippines lead the world in terms of cumulative installed nameplate geothermal power capacity installed. These three countries still have plenty of geothermal projects under development and are also home to some of the largest geothermal plants in the world. However, in 2018, Turkey installed the most geothermal capacity additions at 219 megawatts, after completing several new projects.”

While geothermal still represents a small fraction of the world’s energy infrastructure, geothermal is on the rise and hopefully will continue to take a larger and larger share of electrical production in the United States and around the world.  The source of the energy,  the heat of the core of the Earth, will not diminish in any time frame relevant to Mankind.

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Author’s Comment:

I awoke one morning a couple of years ago, went down and threw a few logs in the woodstove that we use to supply most of the heat for our home.  I realized that my grandfather and his grandfather had done the same in their day.  Looking back down the timeline, I realized that mankind had been doing this – or something similar – for thousands of years:  Burning Stuff for Energy.

We know that nuclear would supply all the base load electricity that the world needs if the nambies and NIMBYs would just let the industry get on with it.  I’ll cover that topic in another essay.

The only other truly modern electrical power source is solar.  Photovoltaic cells are wonderful for supplying electrical power when and where the Sun shines and there are no other alternatives – such as on an expedition to the Sahara where there are no power lines.   But for homes and cities and factories, these all require 24/7 dependable full electrical service. Solar always requires base-load backup for the majority of the day when the sunshine is not sufficient or non-existent.   And solar farms, as they are sometimes called, take up a lot of real estate.  So, Solar is not a end-all solution for supplying the electrical energy needs of the modern world.

Starting each comment with the name of the person to whom you are speaking is always good manners.  Address your comments to  “Kip…” if speaking to me in particular.   Thanks.

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Ron Long
November 4, 2020 2:32 am

Kip, good article on geothermal and I will wait for your review of nuclear power plant electricity generation. The state of Nevada has a stunning amount of geothermal potential, easily revealed by examining a magnetic strength map of the state, which has been processed by “quick” gaussian stretching. Quick means limiting the stretching to a few blocks downward. The Curie Point is so shallow over much of central to northwestern Nevada that the magnetic intensity disappears, usually shown by deep blue colors. Perhaps you could find one of these maps and post it?

Reply to  Ron Long
November 4, 2020 5:56 am

Geothermal is nuclear. You just don’t need to deal with the daughter products: they’re already buried.

Reply to  Greg
November 4, 2020 8:26 am

No. Mostly geothermal is just non renewable heat left over from the planet’s formation. Ok planets were probably made in thermonuclear explosions, but that isn’t what you meant is it? I think the decay heat of the earth is only a few percent of its total.

Ron Long
Reply to  Leo Smith
November 4, 2020 11:42 am

Leo, the contribution of heat in granite terrains is more important than used to be estimated. See “The sources of energy for crustal melting and the geochemistry of head-producing elements, by Fernando Bea, 2012” wherein the author shows radioactive decay, which is more pronounced in granitic terrains, is “often essential and always advantageous” in producing melts in granitic terrains. The granite composition is important because it is enriched in K40, Th230, and U235, which are the starting radionuclides. Overall, heat escaping from the molten core and hot mantle are more important, but in granite terrains?

Chris Morris
Reply to  Ron Long
November 4, 2020 1:53 pm

The problem with looking at geothermal potential at 7km is that it is very costly to drill that deep and very unlikely the well has permeability. Most of the wells drilled, even by big rigs, can’t go much past 3km. Once temperatures get over 200°C, life gets very hard for drilling bits, be they tricone or drag bits.

Chris Morris
Reply to  Kip Hansen
November 4, 2020 8:24 pm

I am not doubting what you wrote or DOE say Kip, but the DOE information is not based on real geothermal power stations and their industry. I suspect it is all academics they are referencing, not drillers.

November 4, 2020 2:37 am

My local lord is heating his mansion with ground sourced heating, with pipes under the formal gardens. Sources from the household say it is the first time the mansion has been warm since it was built in the 19th century. He’s also got solar panels on the stable block…

Reply to  griff
November 4, 2020 4:18 am

“My local lord”
You are a serf?
WUWT is a US based website. We do not do royalty here, we respect individual liberty instead.
None of us are serfs.
This one comment of yours explains everything we ever needed to know.

Reply to  TonyL
November 4, 2020 5:48 am

Funny to read that in the context of the usual fawning praise towards “His Lordship” the third Viscount Monckton of Benchley on this site.

It seems only some British aristocrats are acceptable, depending on their positions on climate.

And yes, Grifter probably is a serf, since anyone who accepts the AGW dogma will willfully accept serfdom to save the planet.

Reply to  Greg
November 4, 2020 6:49 am

Lord M is that most British of things, a complete fruitcake.

Reply to  TonyL
November 4, 2020 6:48 am

We still have lords owning huge estates in the UK, fact of life. ‘My local’ just means he’s the nearest one, just up the road. The USA is also ruled by the richest 5% – the difference is, you have the illusion you are somehow the equal of the billionaires funding the Republican party

Reply to  griff
November 4, 2020 7:38 am

Good point – the US billionaire aristocats are eerily, and fruitily, joined at the hip with their British landed aristocats, sorry, gentry.

The deep state “establishment” is Eerily Green.

The swamp that President Trump tried to drain is that very same – remember the City of London (with its own government) was built on a swamp at the Thames, just like its legendary model, Venice, the Swamp.
See Edgar Allan Poe’s City in the Sea –

Swamp creatures are usually green.

Reply to  bonbon
November 4, 2020 10:03 am

“Swamp creatures are usually green.”

But not a nice Kermit type of green

More a sickly, putrid, oozing sort of green

Reply to  griff
November 4, 2020 7:56 am

Actually the richest of the rich, people in the US, the upper 0.1%, gave more to the Democrats, five to ten times more, in this election cycle. Worse, the media donate 90% to the democrats and 10% to the Republicans. Thus the media give the democrats free publicity.

Reply to  griff
November 4, 2020 8:24 am

Bad point – it is the demrats who have the billionaire backing….they must see Russia and the oligarchs as an example….the demrat billionaires just blew over 100 million trying to buy a senate seat….another 100 million by Bloomieberg to win Florida….I love to see these demrat money men lose.

Bro. Steve
Reply to  griff
November 4, 2020 8:45 am


Very respectfully, you appear to have been listening to too much of the American mainstream media. The richest people in America and most of the richest corporations are supporters of the Democrat Party. It’s not too much to say that much of corporate America is acting as an enforcement arm for their policies and social preferences. It’s been that way for several decades, although you would never guess this based on media reporting.

Monna Manhas
Reply to  griff
November 4, 2020 9:36 am

Billionaires funding the Republican party?
Bezos, Zuckerberg and Gates are unabashed Democrat supporters.

Monna Manhas
Reply to  griff
November 4, 2020 9:38 am

I forgot to mention Michael Bloomberg in that list.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Monna Manhas
November 5, 2020 5:05 am

And you forgot to mention George Soros. He spends a lot of money on American Democrats and their causes (which are his causes).

Reply to  griff
November 5, 2020 8:42 am

You forgot to mention, also, the billionaires funding the Democratic party. We have elites in this country that have sold Americans out, and it’s an equal opportunity society consisting of the political elites in both political parties.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  griff
November 4, 2020 6:36 am

You a tenant then Griff, or is he just the local landowner? Interesting that living memory goes back a couple of hundred years. What area was required to heat a stately home and what did it cost? Chatsworth has 126 rooms so that would be a huge investment seeing that most of the landed gentry are on their uppers these days, that’s why they charge a fortune so you can visit a dozen rooms they don’t use anymore or they leave/sell their house to the National Trust

Reply to  griff
November 4, 2020 7:53 am

Griff, unless it is a super-insulated new-build ‘mansion’ you are talking rubbish, as usual.

You can’t even heat old mansions effectively with a rank of furnaces firing central heating from the cellar, let alone low temperature heating from heat source tech.

And the cost of the installation, equipment, maintenance and insulation? If it’s a mansion, the cost will have been enough to bankrupt a small nation and will not be recouped in the lifetime of your mate Lord Summerisle.

Proved effective in really cold weather yet – of course not.

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  MrGrimNasty
November 6, 2020 9:53 am

When I asked my aunt whether or not she heated parts of the “house” (perhaps just up the road from Griff’s quaint cottage) she replied, “Parts of it.” I don’t think anyone heats all parts of a proper country house, in part because of what it would do to the furniture.

When the last redecoration of a room was done in 1725 or 1840 there are some things to which you do not subject the wood paneling, one being out-of-season heat.

The idea that being landed gentry means one is rich is misplaced. An inheritance tax of 50% put paid to that notion. That’s how our family lost “SinnJinn’s”. That said, Griff may still be a tenant in one of my cousin’s houses. Stranger things have happened.

See what a big (occupied) home looks like. You can see quite a few additions were made in the past 800 years.


Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  Kip Hansen
November 7, 2020 6:10 pm

Kip, one of the great errors is the western notion that “wealth” and “poverty” are counted in money. We moved recently, requiring me to load about 20,000 pounds of what seems to be mostly tools and books. The fact that at my age I can do that means health is wealth in the truest sense.

There are a dozen ways to be poor and a hundred to be rich. What then should define an aristocracy? Birth? Birth order? Money? Old money? Some feel there should be none.
Whatever we do, there are those who are respected for their remarkable achievements, and we laud their descendants. Instant classes…

In the old days, being “landed” meant you could vote. Now everyone is as aristocrat, if you behave like one.

Reply to  griff
November 4, 2020 8:08 am

griif, did you thank Prince William for not revealing his bout with the China (covid) Virus? It would have caused panic throughout the Kingdom, no? Maybe both Princes could get behind this geothermal push?….Maybe a small monetary compensation for drilling on royal land?

November 4, 2020 2:41 am

Kip, can we please re-name “burning stuff” as “Carbon cycle invigoration”

And if the stuff we “burn” comes from very old carbon based materials, it should be called “Carbon cycle replenishment”

Best Regards,

November 4, 2020 2:48 am

Dear Kip,

Under the pretty picture of the hot inside of the Earth, I’m pretty sure the word “cor” should have a “e” on the end.


Bruce Cobb
November 4, 2020 3:03 am

Geothermal is so….expensive. Sure, in some places it may make sense, but mostly, it doesn’t. And there is nothing inherently wrong with “burning stuff”, as long as it is done responsibly. An example of irresponsible (and dumb) burning would be chopping down forests for wood pellets and shipping them to England so that they can claim to be “saving the planet”. We don’t for the most part anyway, burn things the same way we did centuries ago.

David Tallboys
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
November 4, 2020 3:42 am

No it is not so expensive. It is comparable to solar and wind.

The UN IPCC, World Bank, and IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) all have papers on geothermal.

Geothermal’s long term cost is about the same as solar and wind.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  David Tallboys
November 4, 2020 6:00 am

LOL. That means it is expensive. Thank you for proving my point.

Reply to  David Tallboys
November 4, 2020 8:27 am

It is so expensive. It is comparable to solar and wind.
There, fixed that for you.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
November 4, 2020 3:56 am

Also, here in New England, the forests are loaded with “junk wood”- wood with no value for anything other than energy. Some of us foresters are promoting the idea of biomass power plants and pellet factories. But the lunatic enviro fanatics have fought against it because they hate all forestry. They won the battle over biomass and pellets- to the detriment of good mgt. of the forests because how can we grow good, high value trees if the forests are loaded with worthless trees? And we must grow “good wood” because there is and always will be a huge demand for wood products. Private forest owners have a right to make a profit from their land. They could grow food- and the enviro fanatics would like that- they say we should buy local food- but they hate the idea of producing and buying local wood- preferring to buy wood from DESTROYED rain forests or butchered Siberian forests. Some of the forestry haters here are upper middle class- living in huge wood homes with lots of high value furniture made from wood from the rain forests. The forestry haters are some of the worse hypocrites- like those who want to stop fracking but who like driving big cars and flying in jets.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
November 4, 2020 6:06 am

Hoo boy, your whingeing and handwringing “comment” is loaded with red herrings, non sequiteurs, and straw men. The bottom line though is, if biomass used to generate electricity made economic sense, then it wouldn’t have to hide beneath the skirts of the “save the planet” ideology, and happily take subsidies.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
November 4, 2020 9:01 am

every source of energy gets subsidies in one form or another- if you don’t know that, you’re blind

there are a lot of ecosystem benefits from great forestry- which are not counted and a lot of externalities with wind and solar that are not counted

a fuller way of measureing all relevant values would show the great benefits of woody biomass as an energy source

but you know nothing about forestry or biomass- only the idiocy you read from forestry/biomass haters, who are hypocrities who love THEIR wood products but who don’t want trees cut

Don K
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
November 4, 2020 6:17 am

“Also, here in New England, the forests are loaded with “junk wood”- wood with no value for anything other than energy. Some of us foresters are promoting the idea of biomass power plants and pellet factories.”

Sort of. Vermont where I live has several wood burning power plants — one of which is reasonably well documented if you dig around on the internet. AFAICS, the McNeil plant burns natural gas in Summer when Vermont Gas is short of customers and wood in Winter. So basically, it uses about 9% of the annual new wood growth in the state to produce power for 40,000 people for half the year. (roughly 220Mwh annually). Well and good. But in the long run, that new wood growth has to support lumbering, and hundreds of thousands of people who use cord wood or pellets for home heating as well as electric generation. There doesn’t seem to be enough unused new growth annually to support electricity for more than a small population.

So yes, biofuel works. And maybe it’s the power fuel of choice for isolated outposts in forested wilderness. Fairbanks or Yellowknife. But it can’t even fully power thinly populated and heavily forested Vermont — much less New York City.

A starting point for anyone who wishes to research the McNeil plant. https://www.burlingtonelectric.com/more-mcneil

Reply to  Don K
November 4, 2020 8:04 am

Planting new trees to make up for the ones being cut down is pretty much complete greenwashing on the part of the lumber business and politicians looking for resource fees and income tax from jobs. The only scale that works is when a landowner has a big enough woodlot to harvest the deadfall for his woodstove plus solar panels to generate his own electricity. Twenty acres might be sufficient for one house.
Larger scale will be rife with political and profit motivated corruption.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Don K
November 4, 2020 9:04 am

“it can’t even fully power thinly populated and heavily forested Vermont” whoever ever said it was going to power any state or that it was going to be a huge producer of power- or that it would save the planet? NOBODY. But what “junk wood” is available (lots of it) ought to be used- to benefit the forests, the forest owners, and the economy

Trying to Play Nice
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
November 4, 2020 4:19 am

A friend of mine investigated geothermal heating for his home. This was a while ago, but the cost was about five times what his natural gas furnace cost. The interest on the geothermal option would more than pay for his natural gas on a yearly basis. If you scaled the project up to a municipal level, would it be cost effective? It is an appealing technology.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Kip Hansen
November 4, 2020 8:13 am

Ah, so it’s expensive now, but “will be” cheap sometime in the future. Where have we heard that before? So, maybe it will be ready for prime time in 10 or 20 years, maybe not. Meanwhile, we have all that cheap, abundant coal and NG.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
November 4, 2020 8:30 am

Sadly most geothermal sources run cold in about 15 years, there isn’t sufficient heat transfer from the core to the crust, once you start draining it off. In essence the heated earth is a thermal store that you can raid once, and then you need to leave it a few decades before you raid it again..,

Chris Morris
Reply to  Leo Smith
November 4, 2020 8:29 pm

That is not correct. Wairakei has been running for 60 years and yearly produces more energy now than it did for the first 40. It is managed so it is steady state, so will nominally last for ever, or until the next Taupo eruption.

Reply to  Chris Morris
November 6, 2020 4:58 am

But that’s volcanic. Most places aren’t, certainly not many of the populated places.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
November 4, 2020 7:34 am

Kip. Anything that falls off of trees, plus all of the dead trees standing or fallen, are subsequently used to support the new growth that comes in to take the place of the trees and leaves that fell. It seems logical to me that the systematic removal of this “useless” material would in the long run turn a former forest into a moonscape. The British biomass project is a particularly nasty example of this, and we will have to wait decades (or centuries) to witness the consequences. It seems to me that the logic of this is obvious. So we should stop the stupid pellet project and prevent future projects down this particular avenue.

Rick C PE
Reply to  Kip Hansen
November 4, 2020 9:44 pm

Kip: Very much agree. Processing dead or low quality trees for firewood (at residential scale) leaves behind dead leaves, twigs and smaller branches. It’s good to leave the branches in small brush piles as it makes a good home for all kinds of wildlife for a few years as it decays. And one should be aware that a great deal of biomass from the tree is left to enrich the soil in the form of roots. All in all, a very sustainable means of heating -at least for rural homes.

David Tallboys
November 4, 2020 3:07 am

Geothermal is Eternal

Even the UN IPCC likes geothermal and thinks there should be more of it.

Here I link to documents from the UN, World Bank, and IRENA – the International Renewable Energy Agency.


The skill for expanding geothermal lies within the oil companies – because they have the engineering skills for deep drilling.

Reply to  David Tallboys
November 4, 2020 6:13 am

Locally, geothermal field potential decays depending on the rate of heat extraction and replenishment. In addition, maintenance is challenging due to corrosion and other effects. Works great in some places but is expensive to install, operate and maintain.

Curious George
Reply to  David Tallboys
November 4, 2020 8:39 am

Solar panels and wind turbines are eternal .. ?

Reply to  David Tallboys
November 4, 2020 12:04 pm

Geothermal heat is produced constantly, and that rate may be fairly large relative to current human energy use, but it is produced over a VERY large volume relative to the volume humans can reasonably expect to harvest. Drilling down very many miles seems likely to remain technically impossible and even a couple miles is challenging and expensive.

It has often been claimed that the flow rate of geothermal energy is insignificant relative to the surface temperature – except in certain special sites. Thus it seems likely that, except in those special sites, any project to remove and use geothermal energy will use up what is available in a fairly short time. While that heat energy will eventually be replaced from further down, the replacement rate will be far slower than the extraction rate. The site will go dead for an extended time, probably rather long on the human scale.

Thus the question is, can any extensive geothermal energy use, such as a plant to generate electricity, be economically feasible except in those special spots where there is a direct connection to heat from much greater depths than human technology could reach elsewhere?

Malcolm Carter
Reply to  David Tallboys
November 4, 2020 1:34 pm

Don’t expect all of the problems to be resolved by geothermal. From Wikipedia:

“The Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) is a currently nonoperational geothermal energy power plant on the island of Hawaii, the largest island in the state of Hawaii. The plant was shut down shortly after the start of the May 2018 lower Puna eruption. The eruption caused lava to flow over a power substation, a warehouse and at least three geothermal wells that had been preventatively quenched and capped when lava fountains erupted nearby, eventually also cutting off-road access.

In 2016 the plant’s owners were found to be in violation of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards regarding hydrogen sulfide releases and was fined $76,500 for two incidents in 2013. Additional concerns and opposition to the plant have been raised by Native Hawaiians, who view all forms of volcanic activity as manifestations of the goddess Pele. To the Native Hawaiians who revere Pele, geothermal wells and energy production are a desecration of her body and spirit.”

The plant, if I remember correctly, used pentane as its low boiling point hydrocarbon heat transfer fluid. When the volcano erupted, the highly explosive liquid had to be trucked out of the facility.

very old white guy
November 4, 2020 3:26 am

Oh no, pump all the heat from the plant’s core and we will all die. Had to get that in there before there is an all out “green” movement to prevent such action.

Reply to  very old white guy
November 4, 2020 5:55 am

Yes, I was wondering about that. I’ll bet all those little holes can join up making fault lines and provoking earthquakes. Or the Earth will cool and the Hymalas will sink back into the ocean and 5 billions people will die of water shortages.

We have not even started to campaign about all the bad things which can happen if we cool the centre of the Earth.

You thought global warming was bad but this is global cooling. That can only make global warming worse.

Reply to  very old white guy
November 4, 2020 6:50 am

And you know tidal power sucks out the moons energy, causing it to eventually crash into the earth…

Reply to  griff
November 4, 2020 8:19 am

Au contraire, griffter…..the astronauts left a mirror on the moon for measuring the distance by laser from earth – after 20 years, the verdict was that the moon is very slowly moving away and one day will escape the earth’s gravity.

Curious George
Reply to  T.C. Clark
November 4, 2020 9:02 am

Very slowly moving away – yes. One day it will escape the earth’s gravity – no.

Reply to  T.C. Clark
November 4, 2020 12:07 pm

But, there is very little tidal power extraction today. Might there be unexpected consequences of extensive tidal power extraction?

Reply to  griff
November 4, 2020 8:29 am

Actually, tidal power sucks out the Earth’s energy, thus lengthening the day and pushing the moon further away.

Reply to  griff
November 4, 2020 9:03 am

Ignorant comment, griff. Energy taken from the tides comes out of the rotational energy of the Earth. Tidal energy will slow the Earth’s rotation, NOT cause the moon to spiral in. The tides are a bulge in the ocean that run slightly ahead of the moon, exerting a gravitational attraction on the moon, transferring energy to the moon, and slowing the rotation of the Earth.. The moon is getting farther away, not closer. You expose yourself as an ignoranus (not misspelled) with almost every comment you make.

Reply to  griff
November 4, 2020 11:33 am

no, Tidal power just sucks !

November 4, 2020 3:40 am

well im happiest “burning stuff” especially tonight as sth winds n low temps have returned to west Vic
some nice dry solid redgumlogs are making my night comfy thanks;-)
ash n charcoal for the gardens later
and the chookhouse

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Kip Hansen
November 4, 2020 9:06 am

“Not so good on a national scale.” NOBODY has said that- but it’s good where the wood is- in many rural areas, we either cover thousands of acres of fields and forests with solar panels- or we could burn some wood to reduce the destruction of the environment by solar “farms”

I’ve been a forester for 47 years so I know what I’m talking about. Opposition to biomass is a false belief system.

Joseph Zorzin
November 4, 2020 3:50 am

“An example of irresponsible (and dumb) burning would be chopping down forests for wood pellets and shipping them to England so that they can claim to be “saving the planet”.

Not so. First of all, the forests are NOT CHOPPED DOWN. Many are being managed for the long term. Some are clearcut which is a correct forestry proceedure for SOME forests SOME of the time. Other forests are THINNED to allow the other trees to grow FASTER and increase in value FASTER. Saying that the forests are chopped down is absurd. Most of the wood that is converted into pellets is the lowest value wood with NO OTHER VALUE. Got it? They’d have to get rid of those trees just to keep those forests growing GOOD trees. They could just cut them and burn them right there- before planting a new forest. The fact that the pellets get SHIPPED to England is irrelevant. Everything gets shipped thousands of miles nowadays. So what? And shipping by huge boats doesn’t take much energy and cost. If it did, this transaction wouldn’t happen because the cost for the pellets as they arrive in England MUST be low to make it feasible.

Trying to Play Nice
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
November 4, 2020 4:23 am

“And shipping by huge boats doesn’t take much energy and cost. If it did, this transaction wouldn’t happen because the cost for the pellets as they arrive in England MUST be low to make it feasible.”

We’re talking about meeting the goals of the Paris agreement here. I don’t think cost ever enters into the conversation.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
November 4, 2020 4:54 am

Nice to defend the managing of forests, but please do not accuse the rain forest producers of chopping down forests for producing wood.
No rain forest is destroyed by producing good quality lumber. The destruction occurs only as a political decision to convert forest land to agricultural land.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  gmm973
November 4, 2020 9:10 am

“No rain forest is destroyed by producing good quality lumber.” Well, really good forestry does not necessitate clearcutting. I suspect that much of the timber production is not done up to today’s best methods- some is of course. The objective should be to NOT stop forestry or biomass but to do it right. Much of the timber cutting everywhere on this planet has been done wrong- to maximize short term profits- not long term profits and with reasonable protection of important ecosystem values.

Reply to  gmm973
November 4, 2020 12:13 pm

OR, more frequently these days, to biofuel production via sugar cane, corn, and palm oil.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
November 4, 2020 6:51 am

shipping wood pellets from the USA is neither green nor renewable…

and there seems to be evidence some US forestry is cut – clear cut, felled, whatever – solely to supply pellets for power generation.

Reply to  griff
November 4, 2020 8:33 am

Indeed griff, but it makes up 25% of all the UK ‘renewable’ generation of which you are so vociferously proud.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  griff
November 4, 2020 9:12 am

you have no clue what you’re talking about

is destroying fields and forests for solar farms greener than cutting/shipping and burning wood?

no forestry firm or logging outfit clearcuts forests just for pellets- that would be extremely ignorant- because the use for pellets is the lowest economic use- the “good” trees would go to sawmills to make lumber so guys like you can have a nice wood home to live in, wood furniture, paper products and maybe even wood for stove

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Kip Hansen
November 4, 2020 9:16 am

Kim, I’ve been a forester for 47 years- I know what I’m talking about. Yes, some of the harvests are clearcut- but guess what, if you ever took a course in forestry, you’d know that clearcutting, in many situations, is perfectly FINE forestry practice- so spitting out the term “clearcutting” is not useful. And, when clearcutting, only an idiot would chip a sawlog worth 100 times more ounce for ounce. And no, you’re wrong- most of it doesn’t come from mill waste. It comes from large scale forestry mostly in the American southeast. And certainly not all from clearcuts- they do thinnings down there in Dixie- sometimes several times- and when they cut- any type of cut, loggers seperate the trees into different products with the LEAST valuable going to chips.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
November 4, 2020 12:11 pm

“If it did, this transaction wouldn’t happen because the cost for the pellets as they arrive in England MUST be low to make it feasible.”

NOT TRUE while politicians are able to get their hands on other people’s money.

Kevin M
November 4, 2020 4:40 am

” the cor of the Earth”

Reply to  Kevin M
November 4, 2020 9:53 am

cor is a perfectly acceptable medieval word for “my heart”. as in Cri’ de couer. with a little 20th century transliteration.

November 4, 2020 5:08 am

“ Inside the heat exchangers, the geothermal fluid heats and vaporizes a secondary working fluid which is organic, with a low boiling point.”

Curious: What are these fluids? I imagine neither is water, if water is then used to cool/condense.

oeman 50
Reply to  Michael
November 4, 2020 8:33 am

I have been in the design specification stage of an Ormat ORC unit, but not geothermal, which doesn’t matter for the secondary working fluid. The working fluid is n-pentane.

November 4, 2020 5:13 am

If I were an “environmentalist”, how would I oppose geothermal?

Summoning my inner David Suzuki … Geothermal energy removes heat from inside the Earth faster. That hastens the day when the magnetic field will weaken, the planet will lose its atmosphere, and all life will cease.

Seriously though …

As of 2011, the Energy Return On Investment (EROI) for geothermal wasn’t well understood. link That said, when compared with wind and solar, geothermal has the huge advantage that it isn’t intermittent. That saves a bundle because it doesn’t need storage or backup.

Is there a chance for technological improvement in geothermal? Maybe. Folks have been working hard on wind and solar for decades. All the low hanging fruit has been picked. The work on geothermal is a minuscule fraction of that on wind and solar. It is quite possible that there is still some low hanging fruit. The efficiency and cost of geothermal could probably be improved without requiring technological breakthroughs.

Michael S. Kelly
November 4, 2020 5:34 am

I brief internet search on environmentalist opposition to geothermal energy turned this up on top: https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2020-01-23/trump-rollback-desert-protections-geothermal-energy-development

When it comes to any source of energy capable of powering an industrial civilization, the reaction of environmental activists is essentially: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHash5takWU

Randle Dewees
November 4, 2020 6:37 am

I’m not knowable about the different forms of geothermal energy production but large scale generation seems to consume quite a lot of water. That’s a problem in the west.

oeman 50
Reply to  Kip Hansen
November 4, 2020 8:41 am

Kip, just a note, Ormat is not the only provider or ORC technology. There are a number of other companies that can provide it. But Ormat has been at the forefront of the technology and developing working geothermal projects.

Randle Dewees
Reply to  Kip Hansen
November 4, 2020 8:09 pm

Well, it seems all of the Ormat installations, air or water cooled, consume some water. I’m sure the water cooled ones account for most of the consumption. Some 14,692,000 cubic meters for all operations in 2018 – this is about 11,900 acre feet, which isn’t a whole lot on the scale of things.

Huge amount of info in their reports. It would be interesting to compare the efficiency and generated energy cost of the water vs air cooled plants.

Randle Dewees
Reply to  Randle Dewees
November 5, 2020 7:22 am

With the total output of 2100MW of all operations (posted below) that comes to about 8000 gallons water consumed per household per year. Not a lot compared to typical household use. And most of this consumption is from water cooled operations using river water. I just have this feeling the cost is pretty high for air cooled production because you are not using heat of evaporation to cool and condense the working fluid.

Steve Case
November 4, 2020 6:47 am

Yes, the oldest hallmark of human activity is fire, people burn stuff or stuff goes up in smoke on their behalf. The left’s obsession with CO2 must be countered with, “Who and with what army is going force people like say the Chinese to stop using fire?” The whole global warming crusade is truly insane. If actually tried in earnest, would only lead to war.

November 4, 2020 7:08 am

Geothermal is a very poor competitor to the future energy source – molten salt nuclear reactors. There is no reason to prefer geothermal.

Don K
November 4, 2020 7:37 am

Kip: I’m all in favor of grid scale geothermal where it is practical. But it seems overall to be a very limited resource. It works well in a few places with small populations and lots of vulcanism — Iceland, Costa Rica, New Zealand. But the vast majority of the human race does not live on the slopes of active volcanoes. There’s a reason for that. A friend in Hawaii tells me that property in parts of the Puna district is dirt cheap — presumably because it is prone to get buried under fresh lava. AFAIK Hawaii’s geothermal plant is still out of commission — several of its injection wells having been consumed by a lava flow.

Two other potential problems:

There is concern in Japan and elsewhere that exploiting geothermal resources for power will affect hot springs and the associated recreational resources. Worth thinking about?

While some geothermal resources work off “dry steam”, others work off superheated water. At least in one case — the Salton Sea field — that superheated water is said to be quite corrosive. I’m just wondering if dissolved gases and toxic minerals from geothermal wells might not be a problem in some cases.

Mike Dubrasich
November 4, 2020 8:09 am

[M]ankind had been doing this – or something similar – for thousands of years: Burning Stuff for Energy

Wrong, Kip. Hominids have been burning fuel for 2,000,000 years. Fire made us human. No other animal does combustion.

Sorry if that is so beneath your vastly superior super-evolved majesty. We gaze in awe at your rejection of fuel for energy. What a genius. I’m sure your plan will work. The rest of feel so small.

And to top it off, you sneer so grandly at “clearcutting”. How very eco of you. Darn those lousy loggers. We should Lock up the Forest — No Touch, Let It Burn, Watch It Rot. Big Fire is the ticket. After all, who lives in wood houses any more? That’s so last millennium. Mud huts are all the rage now. Heated by volcanoes. So so so green. Thanks, buddy — you saved the Planet.

Mike Dubrasich
Reply to  Kip Hansen
November 4, 2020 8:51 am

Kip, I did read it, all the way through. I know how to read. That must surprise you. I got all the way to the NIMBY link. I even know what NIMBY means. We burn stuff in my backyard. Even in my house and truck. We’re just troglodytes, I guess.

So the Adirondacks were stripped bare in the 16th Century, Kip. Let me ask you some really tough questions, ones you probably can’t answer. Are the Adirondacks still a tree-less wasteland? Is there not a single tree in those hills to this very day? Or did the trees grow back? I don’t blame you passing on these tricky tricky questions.

Have you ever seen a clearcut? I mean in real life, up close and personal, not just in a Sierra Club picture book.

When a million acres of prime timber burned in Oregon last September, did you clap your hands in glee and remark how fortunate it was that those trees were never logged but instead incinerated in mega-fires?

Do you think farmers should stop “burning stuff” like diesel fuel to power their tractors? Should they use geo-thermal and solar cells instead? Because that would be so mod mod modern?

Here’s a thought: maybe you could promote geo-thermal without throwing mud on the people who feed, clothe, and house you. You might need that mud — for your house, and jacket, and the chia pet garden you grow for food on your mud roof.

Dave Yaussy
Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
November 4, 2020 12:35 pm

Seriously, Mike, have you read Kip’s essay, or other essays he has written on this site? If so, you’d be aware that he is not opposed to burning anything, just contrasting combustion-related energy with non-combustion geothermal.

But even if you were correct about Kip’s opinion, the sneering tone is off-putting, and not likely to gain you any adherents.

November 4, 2020 8:10 am

The indoctrory paragraph and photo reminds me of something that has bothered me from the beginning of the climate change myth story, “Where are the studies on what has happened to the forests in the eastern US from the time of the first settlers to today?” Not only was there the charcoal-burning kilns, there was the making of coke, the massive harvesting of trees for ship building, the change of the types of trees grown in the ship building areas and in the southern states, then there was the clearing of southern areas for growing cotton, tobacco and other crops, all affecting the local weather and fauna.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Kip Hansen
November 4, 2020 9:13 am

And those forests didn’t exist during the last glaciation.

November 4, 2020 8:42 am

from your link:https://www.energy.gov/eere/geothermal/geovision

“These reductions could increase geothermal power
generation nearly 26-fold from today, representing
60 gigawatts-electric (GWe)3
of always-on, flexible
electricity-generation capacity by 2050. This capacity
makes up 3.7% of total U.S. installed capacity in 2050,
and it generates 8.5% of all U.S. electricity generation. ”

Not very likely to replace the current sources.

Curious George
November 4, 2020 8:54 am

“The larger Geysers complex in California produces about 21,600 MWh .” In 2017 it was 15,500 MWh – the latest data from geysers.com.

Kip, I have my doubts about your colorful map of temperature at 7 km depth. There are not very many holes drilled that deep. Especially in volcanic regions. How much of it is real data, and how much is a “homogenization” which can bring missing data into existence?

Curious George
Reply to  Kip Hansen
November 5, 2020 7:57 am

The Department of Energy. For a glowing review of a failed project, see
https://www.energy.gov/lpo/crescent-dunes [still glowing as of Nov/5/2020]
Many fairy tale books come with beautiful illustrations.

Gary Pearse
November 4, 2020 9:56 am

Kip: Iceland is a hugely over-the-top example for geothermal.

“Iceland is a pioneer in the use of geothermal energy for space heating.”

The country lies over and is entirely born of the hot Mid-Atlantic Ridge. When I was a geology student in the late 50s 60s in Manitoba, we had a lecture from (IIRC his name and that he was head of state) Dr Thorarnison of Iceland on the large number of sq. miles added to the country at the time by a major eruption. His spectacular slides looked something like this:

comment image

From the main Winnipeg newspaper I then learned that his lecture wasn’t the main purpose of the visit! He was well known in Gimli, Manitoba, the largest settlement of Icelanders outside of Iceland, as a popular folk singer! The settlement itself was from people displaced by a massive lava flood earlier in the 20th Century. The gov of Iceland negotiated immigration and the location on Lake Winnipeg where they could, and did, develop a fishery.

Mike Smith
November 4, 2020 11:27 am

Geothermal power has one very big thing going for it: unlike wind and solar it delivers continuous output.

But if it’s so economically attractive why don’t we already have more of it?

Why aren’t organizations with pots of money and lots of big drills already scaling up?

Robert of Texas
November 4, 2020 11:30 am

This is just me pondering “what will we screw up next?”, but I started thinking about large scale use of geothermal power.

Let’s say we radically expand its use and start going deeper (using new technologies, another assumption). So now we are bringing “heat” up much faster from say 8 miles (13 km) deep which over time starts to cool large areas of crust. I am not particularly worried about the extra heat at the surface – it will get convected upwards and away – but would this heat loss cause changes in the crust?

One can assume nearby geysers would be impacted, so an radius around Yellowstone would need to be protected.

Would it cause more or less earthquakes? Would earthquake intensity change at all?

Never-mind the economics would likely never be favorable in most places, this is just a thought experiment.

November 4, 2020 11:41 am

Speaking of “burning”, what would you call lowering the energy ‘state’ of an electron existing around the Hydrogen nuclei, and utilizing the energy subsequently released?

PS. This has, and is being done.

PPS. Proof upon request. No ‘cranks’ please. (This means you, skissor.)

Rud Istvan
Reply to  _Jim
November 4, 2020 2:34 pm

Jim, hate to break it to you, but Black Light Power is a provable fraud by Mills. Provable several different ways, all covered in the Details chapter of my ebook The Arts of Truth. It was one of four main examples. Illustrations, explanations, citations. And, after he got caught out, changed the company name, the intermediate claims, and kept the fraud going.

Curious George
Reply to  _Jim
November 4, 2020 3:04 pm

“(This means you, skissor.)”
Please include me as well.

November 4, 2020 12:30 pm

Brilliant Light Power and its predecessors have been claiming great success, and new patents, for quite some time now. Has a single commercial produce appeared? It just seems to go on and on, without visible results, like a scam.

Craig from Oz
November 4, 2020 6:44 pm

Okay – not completely convinced to be honest here, Kip.

First up I am not against the concept of geo and the principle of it sounds wonderful. However I find your article a bit inconsistent in direction.

Iceland is discussed and used as a prime example of geo-thermal energy, with the important word being ‘energy’. Most of this ‘energy’ seems to be claimed via heating, not actually electricity production. Yes I understand that a useful percent of Iceland electricity is from geo-thermal (25% ?), but using G-T to warm your bathwater is not the same as running major industry.

Next point is that Geo-Thermal, like wind and solar, is not free, because while the earth always (in context of our discussion, not life cycle of the solar system) has ‘hot rocks’ it does not always have 4km long drill shafts. Those aren’t free. You have to make those yourself. While I do have a small professional history in hard rock mining deep in the dusty depths of my working career, it is both small and dusty so I would not like to stake my rep on the costs involved in drilling and maintaining such shafts, but I would suggest that anything that requires a 4km hole to be dug first is not going to break even in the short term.

Lastly I would like to put a bit of context into the success of Ormat Technologies. From their website they seem to have built small plants out in the countryside in many countries. They claim 2,100MW over 150 sites. Using my fingers and toes this works out to 14MW per site on average.

In comparison the reactor in an LA class submarine seems to be rated at 165MW.

So… colour my cynical at the moment I am afraid.

November 4, 2020 8:57 pm

I have tried to purchase geothermal systems for my house three times.

Each time they came back with cost estimates that begin at $20,000 and didn’t have the actual maximum cost identified. Well, one came back with a $20,000 bottom cost, the other two came back with $25,000 and $30,000.

Plus they informed that in the acidic clays of Virginia, the life of the system was extremely short.

I also inquired about geothermal home heating systems in New Orleans and Pennsylvania. Contractors at those locations wouldn’t even consider the concept.

“The image used here is of the charcoal-burning kilns in the Adirondacks, much of which were clear-cut in the late-1700s and early 1800s”

Wow!… That sounds so un-environmental of them, so vast an area reduced to charcoal…

Only the Adirondacks are not so vast an area…comment image

Even in colonial times, miners and smelters quickly realized the value of coal in their furnaces. With plentiful anthracite coal in Pennsylvania.

Yes, some ironworks still used charcoal in their furnaces. Cost and ease of acquiring the wood.

Except, all woods do not make good charcoal, or efficiently convert to charcoal.
At Hopewell Village National Historic Site they conduct at least one charcoal making event every year.
The preferred wood to make charcoal is Hickory.
Ideally the hickory is 20 to 40 years old. Thick enough to have good heartwood, small enough that men can handle the cut logs easily.

Instead of clear cutting the entire area, Hopewell Furnace operated from 1771 through to 1883 by harvesting sections of their land.
Just as the paper and pellet making companies do today.

One must remember these stories of vast clearcut Eastern forests conflict with well known disasters of the Chestnut blight or the harvest of red spruce for airplane struts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Both species were old growth trees when the blight struck or the need for airplane parts began.

I helped harvest maple sap when the harvest was by buckets hung on maple trees.
Young trees under twenty years old are not viable maple sap producers.

There were maple trees that I collected buckets from that were massive trees with many buckets around their perimeter. I guess those trees missed the clearcutting since that maple sap collection was in Vermont very near the Adirondacks.
comment image

Owners of land plots with large trees frequently sell their excess trees for good money. Not clear cutting by any description.

Please be careful of writers using colorful descriptions for what they personally believe they see.
There are more than enough true examples of rampant greed in operation; e.g. people using the new train in Colorado using dynamite to kill and harvest trout that then sold in the cities. e.g. 2, buffalo slaughterers killing buffalo solely to harvest the tongue for curing and sale in Eastern cities, leaving the rest of the carcass to rot. e.g. 3, Market gunners killing every migratory bird they can for sale in the large cities.
There are market fishermen still doing the same on the oceans.

Selfish people who have zero reason to maintain and improve a source often do their best to leave nothing of that source for anyone else.

November 5, 2020 12:19 am

Dear Kip,

I made a couple of posts earlier which eventually made it past the moderator.

I am surprised at the amount of opposition to geothermal on this forum from people who I would have thought would support expansion of a power source that gives base load, is low carbon, almost competitive with wind and solar; and whilst not technically renewable, will certainly outlast the likely span of human existence on the planet.

Here are some links, including a fairly dramatic account of drilling down to magma:

The UN IPCC recommends expansion of geothermal.


A study on the environmental impact of geothermal plants:


Drilling down to magma in Iceland


The International Renewable Energy association report on geothermal:


I was a sceptic (or basically ignorant) of geothermal until the beginning of this year when, as a small venture capital firm, I was approached by an Icelandic firm wanting to raise some more money for their geothermal plants which they already operate or installed in Iceland and Kenya.

I then also found by chance that a neighbor had been part of the Halliburton deep drilling research team that put a probe 26,000 feet down – a record then.

Good news for US readers – Californians at least – there are about 5,000 deep drilled holes that were originally for oil but which could be repurposed for geothermal as the technology and knowledge increases.

Geothermal is still in its infancy – it is a “missionary sale” which is why I tend to direct people to the UN and IRENA websites.

I did set up one of my own too – https://www.geothermal.online/#OurStory

Oil companies should really be pushing this as they have the deep drilling knowledge but it will be expensive and they probably need a huge foundation to fund it rather than shareholders money because the solutions need to be shared rather than kept proprietary.

Good luck

David Tallboys

Reply to  David Tallboys
November 5, 2020 5:41 am

They were given $90 million of taxpayer dough to start with out of $144 million allocation and went bye byes like a couple of wave generators sunk and rusting off our coasts- https://reneweconomy.com.au/geodynamics-changes-focus-solar-storage-hybrid-energy-56661/

Curious George
Reply to  David Tallboys
November 5, 2020 8:00 am

David – the opposition comes from one word: COST. Can you recover it except under special circumstances?

Reply to  David Tallboys
November 6, 2020 1:41 am

“David Tallboys November 5, 2020 at 12:19 am

Geothermal is still in its infancy – it is a “missionary sale” which is why I tend to direct people to the UN and IRENA websites.”

Funny concept, that. Define “infancy”?
Apparently your concept of “infancy” is not my concept of “infancy”.

California’s tectonics makes position and size of geothermal installations critically important as even moderate earthquakes can destroy parts of the installation. Nor does the existence of oil wells make them an obvious solution to installing geothermal.

That you have recently been converted to a geothermal religion does not increase geothermal viability, effectiveness or financially logical.

I related just above about hw I tried to install geothermal each time I had to replace my heat pump system.
The last time I tried, the geothermal company flat out told me that I would not get a long lived system as my region’s acidity forced complete new installations at approximately the frequency of heat pump life cycles.
Hmmm. $25,000 to $30,000 minimum versus $6,000 for a new heat pump…

That expert also told me that they’ve installed multiple geothermals as “virtue signals” to rich customers. Average total cost per installation? $50,000.

Business installations of geothermal are common, where applicable. Their installations utilize artificial ponds or lakes.
That is, geothermal lays out a grid of piping underneath the pond/lake to take advantage of the water’s thermal mass and stable temperature range of the water.
Cost for these systems is far above that $50,000 average.

A geothermal plant in Utah named after exSenator Orrin Hatch failed to be profitable forcing the manufacturer and operator to seek bankruptcy.

In 2017, the geothermal company restructured from that bankruptcy was in default of payments to a Chinese company for a geothermal plant built in New Mexico.
Lightning Dock geothermal plant and it’s participants also filed for bankruptcy.

So much for geothermal being ‘the‘ energy solution. For most installations it is just so much virtue signalling.
Nuclear plants are much longer lived efficient producers of electricity. Natural gas and even coal or oil electricity generators are far cheaper, extremely efficient and effective.

Reply to  ATheoK
November 6, 2020 5:04 am

It’s in its infancy because it hasn’t been widely adopted even in areas where there is lots of potential.

As the UN IPCC, World Bank, International Renewable Energy Association and the US Depaertment of Energy have all produced papers supporting the expansion of geothermal I am more inclined to believe them than your personal tales.

“The levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) of geothermal power plants is about USD 0.04—0.14 per kilowatt-hour. This is comparable with all fossil fuel power generation costs and with most renewable power sources e.g. solar and wind.” Per IRENA report.

This is the US Department of Energy site:


I don’t think I said geothermal was “the” energy solution. Perhaps you could point out to me where I said that.

Curious George
Reply to  David Tallboys
November 6, 2020 11:22 am

The Department of Energy is not a reliable source. For a glowing review of a failed project, see
They are so proud of having wasted $737,000,000. Believe them at your own peril.

Reply to  Curious George
November 8, 2020 12:19 pm

The project is a fail. DOE is trying to look good but new private owner is blowing smoke “online by end of year”. From 2008 to now : it never really worked. The jobs program part of the pitch to DOE = wink wink.

November 5, 2020 12:29 pm

Thousands of years of burning stuff for energy? Some might call that a proven technology. 😉

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