Until now, geothermal technology has only been used on a small scale to produce power. But with major new projects now underway, deep geothermal systems may soon begin making a significant contribution to the world’s energy needs.
Ultimately, thanks to unusually hot rock close to the surface and existing infrastructure from oil-and-gas production, the Cooper River basin alone could produce about 10,000 megawatts of electricity — enough to replace 20 large coal-fired power plants, says geologist Doone Wyborn, Geodynamic’s chief scientist. That’s just a taste of the potential that this technology, known as enhanced geothermal systems, holds for Australia and the world, according to Wyborn.
In the US, researchers estimate that for just $1 billion invested over 40 years — the cost of one large coal-fired power plant and a fraction of the cost of a nuclear power plant — 100 gigawatts of clean, dependable geothermal power could be developed in the United States alone. That’s the energy equivalent of more than 200 coal-fired power plants or 100 new nuclear power plants.