Geothermal energy plants use the Earth’s own heat as a power source – and now Iceland is taking the technology several steps further by harvesting energy from liquid magma. The nation is drilling deep into the planet to tap temperatures from 400 to 1000 degrees Celsius, which could produce ten times more electricity than typical geothermal sources.
Iceland already avoids the use of fossil fuels, but that isn’t stopping their pursuit of innovation. The Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) is drilling 5 kilometers down into the Earth’s crust using its rig named “Thor.” The site is located on the Reykjanes peninsula near an extension of the Mid-Atlantic ridge, where heat oozes between Earth’s tectonic plates.
“People have drilled into hard rock at this depth, but never before into a fluid system like this,” Albert Albertsson, assistant director of an involved Icelandic geothermal-energy company, HS Orka, told to New Scientist. By reaching down into the depths of the heated seawater at this location, the researchers behind IDDP are hoping to find “supercritical steam,” which holds more heat energy than either liquid or gas. A potential 50 megawatts of energy could be generated from this steam, making a typical geothermal well’s 5 MW look measly. That means up to 50,000 homes could be powered by the super-hot hole.
The worldwide implications are promising, as supercritical geothermal energy could be produced wherever young volcanoes are found. The IDDP’s current project was launched after the company accidentally hit magma back in 2009, yet shut down after corrosion issues. That well generated 30 MW, compared to the new well’s 50 MW.
Via New Scientist