A first-of-its-kind geothermal project is now underway in Nevada, which will help power Google’s data centers with clean energy.
Google is teaming up with startup Fervo, which has developed a new technology to harness geothermal energy. Because they use different methods than traditional geothermal power plants, it is a relatively small project with a generating capacity of 3.5 MW. For context, one megawatt is enough to roughly meet demand 750 houses. The project will feed electricity into a local grid serving two Google data centers outside Las Vegas and Reno.
It’s part of Google Plan To run carbon-free electricity around the clock by 2030. To achieve this goal, it will have to get more clean energy sources online. It sees geothermal energy as a key part of the future electricity mix that can fill in when wind and solar power diminish.
“If you think about how far we’ve come in wind and solar energy storage and lithium-ion, here we are — this is kind of the next set of things and we feel that companies have a big role to play in developing these technologies.”
“If you think about how far we’ve come in wind and solar energy storage and lithium-ion, here we are — this is kind of the next set of things and we feel that companies have a big role to play in developing these technologies,” says Michael Tyrrell. ., senior director of energy and climate at Google.
the project It has been in the works since 2021, when Google Announce “The world’s first institutional agreement to develop a next-generation geothermal project.” Geothermal energy makes use of heat emanating from within the Earth. But this effort There is no ordinary geothermal power plantwhich typically draw hot fluids from natural reservoirs to produce steam that drives turbines.
This new project is actually built on the outskirts of an existing geothermal field, where, as Tyrell puts it, “there’s hot rock, but no liquid.” To generate geothermal energy there, Vervo had to drill two horizontal wells through which it pumps water. Vervo pushes cold water through cracks in the rock, heating it so it can generate steam again at the surface. It is a closed loop system, so water is reused – an important feature in a drought-prone region like Nevada.
Fervo also installed fiber optic cables inside the two wells in order to collect real-time data on flow, temperature and performance of its geothermal system. These are tactics derived from the oil and gas industry to take advantage of energy resources that would otherwise be out of reach.
“This was very promising for us because it was really taking advantage of existing technologies that were being used in the oil and gas space,” Terrell says. “So we felt like it had a lot of potential, a lot of potential to come online sooner rather than later.” Aside from this deal with Google, Fervo is also backed for its technology by Bill Gates’ climate investment firm Breakthrough Energy Ventures and the US Department of Energy.
Unlike wind and solar farms that are sensitive to weather and time of day, geothermal projects can generate electricity on a more consistent basis. This is one of the reasons why Google is working to bring more projects like this online.
In September, that is Announce Another partnered with the non-profit InnerSpace Project to “leverage their respective strengths to address critical challenges facing geothermal development, including developing a global tool for mapping and evaluating geothermal resources.”
For now, the company is keeping quiet about where else it might try to deploy geothermal energy for its data centers. Data centers are notorious for consuming large amounts of electricity 1 percent From global electricity.
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