A team of scientists from Seattle-based AltaRock Energy, Inc. and Davenport Newberry Holdings LLC has announced plans to harness one of Mother Nature’s most powerful energy sources by pumping 24 million gallons of water into the side of a dormant volcano in Central Oregon. The team hopes that the water will return to the surface boiling hot, at which point it can be used to generate clean and cheap energy – without the explosive side effects and liquid magma associated with active volcanoes.
AltaRock Energy and Davenport Newberry Holdings LLC hope that the new method will bolster geothermal energy, which has seen setbacks due to cost, technical problems, and the fear that it could cause earthquakes. The project has generated so much interest that investors include the U.S. Department of Energy (who are putting in $21.5 million) and Google (who, along with other investors, have reportedly allocated $6.3 million).
“We know the heat is there,” said Susan Petty, president of AltaRock said to ABC News. “The big issue is can we circulate enough water through the system to make it economic.”
The next phase of the project is set to go ahead as 800 gallons of water are poured each minute into the 10,600-foot test well for a total of 24 million gallons. However due to concerns about safety, the government is reportedly going to be monitored the whole project. While the team has said that the chances of an earthquake are low, the project is sited far away from towns and cities… just in case. “That’s the $64,000 question,” Majer said. “What’s the biggest earthquake we can have from induced seismicity that the public can worry about.”