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What is EGS? Revisiting the Basics

April 16, 2011

For those of you just learning of AltaRock Energy’s Newberry EGS Demonstration – or just learning of EGS in general – here is a quick-guide to this technology and the potential it offers.

What is EGS?

EGS stands for Enhanced Geothermal Systems. Traditionally, geothermal energy can only be generated from locations where naturally occurring open cracks are filled with hot water. While many places in the U.S. have the hot rock, open cracks and water are not always present. EGS can expand the number of viable geothermal sites by opening existing fractures and adding water to already-present hot rock, cycling that water through the rock (so it is heated), and generating heat and power from that hot water, as with other geothermal sites.

How does EGS work?

This video from Google.org explains it well:

Narrator: “A well is drilled several kilometers into the earth’s hot crust. Water is injected to fracture the rock, creating thousands of small pathways for water to flow and be heated. The hot water and steam are piped to the surface to power a turbine, generating electricity. The water is then recycled back into the hot rock in a continuous loop.“

Can EGS be competitive with other forms of energy?

Yes. It’s expected to be. Right now, EGS is still being developed, so if you compare today’s numbers against technologies that have already gone through that process, you’re comparing apples and oranges. A 2007 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology determined that if EGS technology is appropriately developed, it could be supplying 10% of the nation’s energy needs in less than 50 years—and doing it at a price that is competitive with non-renewable energy sources.

Who is investing in EGS development?

Yes. AltaRock Energy is a national leader in the development of EGS technology, and AltaRock’s projects have seen support from some heavy hitters in the United States. Google.org has invested $6.25 million in AltaRock to develop EGS technologies and projects. And the U.S. Department of Energy selected AltaRock’s Newberry EGS Demonstration to receive $21.4 million in grant funding toward the project’s $43.8 million budget.

Want to learn more?

Please view other posts throughout this blog addressing topics such as the U.S.’s role in global EGS development, how EGS compares with other renewables, and what “demonstration” really means.

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