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The Importance of Investing in R&D for a Clean Energy Future

March 31, 2011

The work underway at AltaRock’s Newberry EGS Demonstration could be considered the development stage for technology with potential national application. However, some people claim that national application of clean energy is not feasible because, supposedly, such technology is not economically viable.

Development is the key word here: development is what makes innovation accessible. A concept is developed into a working model, then that model is made scalable, repeatable and increasingly more affordable. This is how new technologies become economically viable; to condemn a technology still in progress as too expensive is to compare not apples and oranges, but apples and apple seeds. It’s not a viable argument.

Flat screen television is an excellent example of the difference that a little time and some rigorous development can make:

As the technology improved and the supply increased, the price for a 32-inch LCD television dropped more than four-fold in just five years. Would it have been wise to write off flat screens as too expensive to even bother producing? Hardly. They’re now the market standard.

Development of Enhanced Geothermal Systems

This same principle bears out in clean energy as well, and not just in theory. In 2007, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded that if the technology is appropriately developed, EGS will be capable of providing 10% of the nation’s energy needs within 50 years at prices competitive with coal.

But that development is essential to get from here to there, and it takes investment. This does not mean throwing money at anything relatively sustainable. While subsidizing high-price clean energy items such as solar panels and electric cars helps individual consumers move their own lives in the right direction, true nation-wide change requires development of the systems that impact us all, such as energy supply and production.

If properly developed, Enhanced Geothermal Systems, like those being developed by AltaRock Energy, are in line to have a significant positive impact on the source and reliability of national energy—and become economically viable in the process.

 

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