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Hot Rocks – The Perfect Renewable Energy

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John Benson's picture
Senior Consultant, Microgrid Labs

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: Microgrid Labs, Inc. Advisor: 2014 to Present Developed product plans, conceptual and preliminary designs for projects, performed industry surveys and developed...

  • Member since 2013
  • 885 items added with 597,060 views
  • Jun 15, 2021

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This post will start in my deep past, over 40 years ago and travel several decades into the future. The subject of this post is Geothermal Power, a renewable energy source that was first used to generate electricity in Larderello, Italy, in 1904, and thus is one of the oldest renewable energy sources. It has been used in my home state (California) to generate a significant amount of our electric energy since the early 1960s.

In 1985 I became heavily involved with the Geysers Geothermal Generating Field, what is now (still) is the largest in the world by several metrics.

However I have never posted a paper about Geothermal Power. I have decided to rectify this failure and write this post. As I started researching this, I found that this technology has not only been amazing in the past and present, it will be important to our efforts to overcome climate change in the future.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 15, 2021

What's the level of effort for regular maintenance for geothermal assets when compared with other sources of energy? 

John Benson's picture
John Benson on Jun 15, 2021

Thanks for the question, Matt.

It's really hard to compare. The steam cycle is similar to the "topping" part of a combined system. (The bottom part is a combustion turbine, and it's exhaust goes through a heat exchanger / steam generator). The reclaimed water system and the hydrogen sulfide collection and injection systems is an added complexity (at The Geysers, other geothermal plants may not have high emissions of this gas).  Also the piping, valves, etc. for the water in and steam out covers a pretty wide area for each unit.

So the process complexity is comparable to a combined-cycle, but higher than PV, PV + storage, or wind turbines.

On the other hand, I would say the overall process complexity of geothermal is much less than a coal plant. Ditto nuclear. 


John Benson's picture
Thank John for the Post!
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