Enhanced Geothermal Systems Could Answer Energy Question
Expert Explains How Limitless Renewable Energy Exists Right Under Our Feet
The discourse on green energy almost always includes the upside of how great it is for the environment and the downside of how much it will cost.
With a stalled Green energy movement that seems to have convinced few people that it can actually replace our dependence on fossil fuels, Tom Rand thinks it’s time to move the goal posts. An engineer who is also a venture capitalist who puts his money where his mouth is, his challenge is simple: America can either pioneer green energy as an investment that will pay off for centuries to come, or wind up paying someone else for the same solutions down the road.
That’s why Rand, author of KICK the Fossil Fuel Habit: 10 Clean Technologies to Save Our World, from Greenleaf Book Group Press (www.ecotenpublishing.com), thinks that Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) is one solution that we should not overlook.
“EGS is the game changer, and if pursued with vigor, could contribute in a huge way to getting us off oil,” Rand said. “I see the solution both as an engineer and as a venture capital specialist, because it’s not just about going green -- it’s about going green, replacing our dependency on foreign oil and fossil fuels and becoming an energy solutions provider for the rest of the world. Instead of the world’s biggest consumer of energy, we could also become the world’s largest producer of energy solutions for the world.”
Rand said EGS would not require a massive infrastructure overhaul, or the need to develop vastly complicated new technologies.
“The idea is simple,” he said. “In most of the world, the ground 6 miles underneath our feet is dry, but as hot as the hottest aquifer. That heat can be mined, brought to the surface, and used to generate electricity. If we are serious about wanting to replace coal, we simply drill EGS holes beside every coal plant. Replace the boiler with a heat-exchanger. Keep the rest of the infrastructure. Turn off the furnace. Done.”
Available around the clock, throughout the year, and available almost anywhere, EGS is suitable to be the workhorse of the world’s electrical system — with a constant baseload supply, according to Rand.
“It’s got colossal potential,” he added. “The ground beneath the US could easily provide all its energy needs for the foreseeable future. EGS is the real deal. If the U.S. energy producers spent a combined $1 trillion to refit the plants around the country, they could replace 75 percent of all U.S. electrical production with a solution that would cost consumers much less for their electricity needs.”
How to motivate owners of existing coal assets to drill those holes? “If the capital for the EGS project is provided as low-cost debt”, Rand says, “the cost of servicing that debt can made less than the existing coal bill.” In other words, the owners of coal plants would see EGS as a benefit, not a competitor.
Drilling has started at two locations in Australia, one at Paralana, and a massive second project at Cooper Basin, according to Rand. There is an operational plant in Soultz, France and another one in Landau, Germany that has been in operation since 2007, producing enough power for more than 6,000 homes. Sweden and Japan are also in on the action. The first commercial plant in the US, partly funded by the US Department of Energy, is planned for Desert Peak, Nevada.
“Unlimited energy supply, lower costs to consumers and zero dependence on any other energy source that’s bad for the environment,” Rand said. “That’s all upside, but the real issue for me as an investor is the fact that those who pioneer this solution will be the one to sell it to other energy firms around the world. We can do it here, or buy it from someone else later.”
About Tom Rand
Tom Rand is a Professional Engineer and has Doctorate from the University of Toronto. He currently acts as Lead Cleantech Advisor at the Toronto-based MaRS Institute, which supports the commercialization of Canadian research and development. Before joining MaRS, Tom was a successful entrepreneur, founding Voice Courier Inc. in 1991, a telecommunications software company, leading its expansion to more than 100 employees in three countries, with revenue in excess of $20 million US annually. He sold it in 2005, after leading it for 12 straight profitable years. Tom is currently the Director of VCi Green Funds, a venture firm focused on early-stage low-carbon technologies.
Posted: September 23, 2010