Geothermal Energy in Australia

26,000 Reasons Google's Pushing Geothermal Down Under

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted August 21, 2008

The Aussies have a head, and a continent, full of steam. 

This week, geothermal energy enthusiasts in the Australian government are throwing out some astounding projections of how much potential underground steam-based power the continent-country possesses.

Enter Google, the world's # 1 search engine... and why founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page should head down under.

Anthony Budd, an official at national agency Geoscience Australia, told Reuters on Wednesday that "One percent of [Australia's] reserves would produce 26,000 years of energy supplies."

You read that right. 1%=26,000 years.

That's a massive number that puts into digits what Australia's leaders are already putting into words and policy action.

Australia's Geothermal Energy Push

Australia Resource Minister Martin Ferguson vigorously stands behind geothermal as bearing "huge potential... both as a solution to climate change and in terms of national energy security." And Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made his first move as head of state to sign his country onto the Kyoto Protocol to mitigate global warming.

Up here in the Northern Hemisphere, Google.org, the charitable wing of the search engine company that has already changed the way the world works, annonced this week that it is pursuing "hot rock" geothermal energy research with a planned investment of $11 million.

Of course, it's not just about philanthropy for Google and its non-profit arm. While the company's motto is "Don't be evil," Google's data centers host ever-proliferating racks of servers that whir at dizzying speeds, 24/7/365, and make the company one of the top energy consumers in the world.

Geothermal could help Google buffer a lot of that energy impact.  

In Google's neck of the woods in western U.S., geothermal resources already provide some 3,000 megawatts of power to residences and businesses.

Yet underground energy is woefully underutilized... And that's something Google hopes to change.

Scientific American quotes geothermal drilling entrepreneur Lou Capuano as saying that out of "roughly 1,900 drilling rigs in the U.S., seven, maybe up to 11 now, are geothermal."

Now consider that by using 5,722 existing holes across Australia's vast landscape, Geoscience Australia's Anthony Budd and his colleagues have appraised the national natural resource that could and should take the country away from dependency on coal-fired electricity.

Those holes were all there because of previous mineral and fossil fuel exploration, and that's the Transitional Energy Economy we at Green Chip International have seen develop around the world. Old offshore oil rigs, drill holes, and other engineering feats of the hydrocarbon industry are providing a bridge to clean, renewable power.

Putting Money into the Ground

The Australian Geothermal Energy Association's research says that up to 40% of the government's 20% by 2020 renewable energy capacity goal could be reached with steam generated by injecting water deep into the earth.

And appropriators in the capital of Canberra are digging deep into the national coffers, putting $43 million into advanced geothermal power plant creation.

Washington, for its part, is now officially outpledged by Google.org in its geothermal energy exploration funding. That may change with a new presidency here, but it's clear that the combination of efforts by Google.org and Australia could put American geothermal far ahead of where it is now.

Google.org is putting its first dollars down in California's AltaRock Energy ($6.25 million) and deep drilling specialist Potter Drilling ($4 million).

Paul Thomsen of Green Chip Stocks holding and global geothermal heavyweight Ormat Technologies (NYSE:ORA) says drilling is key to advancing geothermal on a national scale.

"The deeper you drill, the more expensive it is," Thomsen says. "Geology brings magma and heat closer to the surface in the western U.S. If we could drill deeper, then we could move east."

Moving east in the U.S. with geothermal projects entails first looking south to Australia, north to Iceland (where most of that tiny country's electricity already comes from geothermal sources), and wherever else it takes to get the best cooperative technology.

Then we'll see the emergence of a strong worldwide geothermal industry, spawning more technologies and companies to invest in.

Regards,

sig
Sam Hopkins

P.S. - With Green Chip International we're constantly on the lookout for companies that spread out all over the world to explore renewable energy opportunities. In geothermal, Ormat's run by Israelis, based in Reno, and operates on almost every continent. Jeff Siegel has geothermal credentials dating back to before Google was in most people's vocabulary, and long before Google.org's recent foray that netted AltaRock Energy and Potter Drilling several million bucks a piece. To get the jump on the next international geothermal profit play, check out GCI today.