Water has uses beyond just the normal domestic, industrial and agricultural uses. Water is also used to produce energy, and new developments are made every day. One of these new developments is Enhanced Geothermal Systems. Present geothermal power generation comes from hydrothermal reservoirs, and is somewhat limited in geographic application to specific ideal places in the western U.S. To combat these limitations, Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) offer the chance to extend use of geothermal resources to larger areas of the western U.S., as well as into new geographic areas of the entire U.S. For example, in Oregon, AltaRock Energy and Davenport Newberry have partnered to use EGS to develop geothermal energy at the Newberry Volcano near Bend.
Traditional geothermal power generation relies on finding a combination of hot rock, water and permeability. The basic procedure is to drill a hole, pull up the hot water and steam and use it to turn a turbine to produce electricity. Unfortunately, nature doesn’t always bring that trio together in a convenient location. Thus the interest in EGS, wherein pressurized fluid is forced into hot, dry rock formations, causing a web of fissures to develop in the rock. The fissures can then be filled with water, which becomes heated and is pumped up to the surface to be used to generate power. Then, cooled water is sent back down to gather up more heat, creating a new, closed cycle for energy production. You can view an animation of an enhanced geothermal system here.
In all, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that EGS in the United States has the potential to enable development of 100 to 500 gigawatts (GW) of geothermal resource capacity; currently, the U.S. has a world-leading 3,386 MW of installed geothermal capacity. The future of energy production in the United States is definitely changing with the times.