Volcanos as a Source of Renewable Energy

Harnessing the power of lava for energy sounds like a herculean task, but a group of researchers in Iceland think they are up to the challenge. Iceland ― which already fills a quarter of its electricity needs with geothermal energy ― is looking to expand its geothermal energy production with the Iceland Deep Drilling Project.

Geothermal energy, obtained by tapping into and converting underground reservoirs of heat into energy, is touted by the U.S. government for its availability, low emissions, and long-term sustainability.

Given the technological advancements coming up and Iceland’s success, why does geothermal energy only account for 0.41% of U.S. electricity production?

The answer is simple: costs. The start-up costs for geothermal energy are extremely high.  To get a geothermal energy plant off the ground in the U.S. costs a minimum of $2500 per installed kilowatt. In comparison, construction costs for a coal-fired power plant range between $1,000 and $1,500 per installed kilowatt, and construction costs for a gas-fired power plant range from $400 – $800 per kilowatt.

The high start-up costs are not just limited to the U.S. The exploratory borehole for the Iceland Deep Drilling Project cost a minimum of $22 million. The Geothermal Energy Association estimates that the average cost of a 20-megawatt geothermal power plant stands around $30 million.

Until renewable energy sources ― and geothermal energy in particular ― can be cost efficient without large government subsidies, they will remain a drop in the bucket for U.S. energy production.

Comments (3)

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  1. Cory B. says:

    Sounds very feasible economically, but surely environmentalists will ask the question of cost versus dollar price.

    Most volcanoes lie in the western U.S. in the heart of temperate forests and reserves, the most notable (and promising) of which is obviously Yellowstone.

  2. Frank says:

    Where would this be feasible in the United states? Hawaii?

  3. Ken says:

    The costs would be negligible compared to those associated with not venting the active caldera available. Consider tapping Yellowstone to prevent eruption. A steam turbine over “Old Faithful” would have paid for itself several times over. How many could have been built with the billions spent each year at DOE and DEP for beaurocrats & pensions?
    Let’s not forget the shallow crusts of Warm Springs,Ga. HotSprings Ak. and that perpetual unextinguisged coal mine fire in Centralia, Pa. More than 50 yrs. of heat requiring no exploratory boreholes.
    Only a government of self-perpetuating pinheads would waste so much on unreliable solar and wind , when again God has blessed the USA with global warmed untapped energy beneath our feet . Gates Soros & Buffet too tight to spare a billion to finance saving us from clouds of ash and an atmosphere of global winter acid glass death. Great humanitarian philanthropists all. You think they’d spring for a few guaranteed money making holes. It’s not like there aren’t more than 20 plants already producing. The principal is proven and sound. These deep core schemes are overkill incompetence. No batteries needed. Another No Brainer!