Alternative energy has been all the rage over the past decade as the world has been slowly shifting away from fossil fuels. Of these alternative energies lies a seamlessly endless supply of options one can take, from geothermal to wave energy. Most of them gain their own set of notoriety for their beneficial factors.
Geothermal energy, in particular, has seen an ebb and flow of popularity over the years as a rather promising alternative. Due to its location-dependent nature, its backing hasn't been as significant as perhaps it should be. Regardless, countries such as Iceland have excelled in this sphere with multiple geothermal installations set up, including its participation in the world's largest operational carbon capture and storage system.
What is Geothermal Energy?
Geothermal energy is the remarkable process in which heavy machinery drills down toward the earth's core to unlock the intense heat below the surface. This heat can be harnessed and utilized to heat, cool, or produce energy, all on a 24-7 cycle. According to the United States Department of Energy, "Geothermal energy can be used in different ways depending on the resource and technology chosen—heating and cooling buildings through geothermal heat pumps, generating electricity through geothermal power plants, and heating structures through direct-use applications."
This energy poses many beneficial factors that make it an alluring alternative to fossil fuels, such as its main desirable characteristic, low to no emissions. Nevertheless, one of the downsides to this option is its widespread availability, or lack thereof. This is because of the current drilling capabilities and different types of geothermal energy available throughout the globe. In Iceland, the nation's abundant underground water makes it easy for the country to tap into this alternative source; for other countries, not so much.
A United States startup is looking to challenge the status quo of geothermal by creating a genuinely unique drilling design that could catapult the world into a clean energy future.
Boston and Houston-based startup Quaise Energy was founded in 2020 and has since raised over $60 million for its radical approach to geothermal energy.
The company's website states that "Deep geothermal energy is at the core of an energy-independent world. Our mission is to bring this inexhaustible, renewable, clean energy source to future generations. This is the profound power of deep geothermal. We are unlocking energy for all."
Their goal? To scale geothermal to terawatts would require drilling even deeper into the earth's core.
The company's approach is to utilize current technologies to reach the basement level of rock before switching to an even more powerful and faster-drilling machine known as the gyrotron-powered drilling platform. This machine can vaporize "boreholes through rock and provides access to deep geothermal heat without complex downhole equipment."
Quaise Energy suggests that if they can drill roughly 10 miles to the core, they can unlock geothermal energy anywhere globally and provide widespread access to even the most remote places.
Likewise to this outcome would be access to hotter geothermal power, which provides more power density that goes toward powering most power plants in the world.
Perhaps one of the best parts is that the current infrastructure from the fossil fuel industry can be readily transitioned to use for geothermal energy. This means that new equipment won't need to be produced, resulting in an even smaller environmental footprint. In fact, Quaise Energy states on their website that their deep geothermal energy project will use less than 1% of renewable land/materials.
"Our focus is on applying this breakthrough approach to drill deep enough to access the abundant hot rock that exists in the Earth's crust, unlocking a clean energy source at scale," said Carlos Araque, CEO of Quaise Energy. "We intend to capitalize on the knowledge and footprint of the oil and gas industry to achieve this goal, giving us a 100-year head start for achieving operations on a global scale."
The company's tremendous success thus far in only the two short years of its operational life shows promise for the outcome that it may achieve. Moreover, their unorthodox approach, coupled with the notable financial backing that they have received, leads the way to a future no longer reliant on fossil fuels.