Northwest to see test of new geothermal technology
Geothermal power plants generate electricity by pumping water into the ground, using the heat deep beneath the Earth's surface to turn it into steam. This steam is then used to power turbines in much the same way that gas- and coal-fired power plants do.
As of 2008, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that the country produced only 0.36 percent of the its electricity from geothermal energy. The technology faces many limitations at the moment, primarily the inability to create underground reservoirs of water large enough for a full-scale power plant.
"We know the heat is there," Susan Petty, president of Seattle-based AltaRock Energy, told the AP. "The big issue is can we circulate enough water through the system to make it economic."
Now AltaRock, with support ranging from Google to the federal government, hopes to change that with a test to develop a large reservoir inside of a dormant volcano in central Oregon. The test is still in its early stages and concerns about the possibility of inducing earthquakes will bring an added level of scrutiny, but hopes are high it could lead to a new form of plentiful renewable electricity.