According to a report released in 2019 by the U.S. Department of Energy, geothermal electricity generation could increase more than 26-fold by 2050—reaching 60 GW of installed capacity. That may seem like a pipe dream to some power observers, but if new well-drilling techniques allow enhanced geothermal systems to become economical, the reality could be much greater. In fact, Quaise Energy, a company working to develop enabling technologies needed to expand geothermal on a global scale, claims as much as 30 TW of geothermal energy could be added around the world by 2050.
Most of the geothermal systems that supply power to the grid today utilize hydrothermal resources. These tap into naturally occurring conditions in the Earth that include heat, groundwater, and rock characteristics (such as open fractures that allow fluid flow) for the recovery of heat energy, usually through produced hot water or steam.
Enhanced geothermal systems contain heat similar to conventional hydrothermal resources but lack the necessary groundwater and/or rock characteristics to enable energy extraction without innovative subsurface engineering and transformation. The technology that Quaise Energy is working on would allow drilling down as far as 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) to utilize heat from dry rock formations, which are much hotter and available in almost all parts of the world.
“The key thing is we’re going for hotter rock, because we want the water to get hotter,” Carlos Araque, CEO of Quaise Energy, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. “We want it even to be supercritical, which is the fourth phase of water—when it goes above a certain temperature and pressure—that’s what we’re looking for.”
Listened to the podcast episode mentioned above: