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article imageOne per cent of Australia's geothermal energy can produce 26,000 years of electricity

By Chris V. Thangham     Aug 20, 2008 in Environment
Australian scientists claim that just by harnessing one per cent of the country’s untapped geothermal underground energy they could produce 26,000 years worth of clean electricity power.
Australia is the world’s biggest coal exporter and primarily uses coal power to generate nearly 77 per cent of its electricity. But recently the government wants to invest in more renewable sources.
The government announced today that it will allocate A$50 million (US$43 million) to help develop new technology to convert geothermal energy into electricity.
Resource Minister Martin Ferguson told Reuters: "Geothermal energy which is sometimes known as hot rocks has got a huge potential for Australia, both as a solution to climate change and in terms of national energy security."
The power is generated from geothermal sources by pumping water below the ground and the water is heated by the high heat source. The hot water is converted to steam, which then drive the turbines to generate power and electricity.
The earth central core (is about 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit) and the surrounding cores are very hot, but drilling to the center is impossible with current technologies. Luckily for the scientists, the geothermal sources are not far off from the grounds. Geoscience Australia, a governmental organization mapped the countries geothermal sources using the temperature recordings from oil and energy drilling firms’ recorded data from 5,722 petroleum and mineral boreholes. Some sources are located just five kilometers (three miles) from the ground.
Geoscience Australia’s Anthony Budd told Reuters: One percent of reserves would produce 26,000 years of energy supplies.
Budd said “hot rocks” must be at least 150 degrees Celsius to generate electricity power and they have located a number of geothermal sources across Australia at a depth of one (0.60 miles) to five kilometers (three miles). And if they drill deeper, the temperature is even higher and can generate even more power.
A report by the Australian Geothermal Energy association said that the country can produce 2,200 megawatts of power by 2020, fulfilling 40 per cent of the country’s electricity needs.
The total cost for a 10 to 50 megawatts power producing plant is A$120 (US$104.52) per megawatt hour, but for a 300-megawatt power plant, it would cost A$80 (US$69.68) per megawatt hour. These costs are the lowest for any renewable energy method according to the report.
The government wants to reduce the carbon emissions so it is trying to find more renewable energy options. Australia alone produces about 1.5 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions because of its high reliance on coal power. Per capita, Australia is the world’s biggest per-person polluter, nearly five times more than China.
Initially the government will try different geothermal technologies to harness the power but later will determine the best one for other geothermal plants.
Google and others are also working on this geothermal technology here in the U.S. Google invested $10 million in Enhanced Geothermal Systems. They estimate that by using this geothermal technology, just 2 per cent of the heat below North America could meet the current energy needs of the country.
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