turbine to generate power (Figure 8.1). “It is a vast and ubiquitous base load resource, unlike solar and wind, which are obviously an intermittent resource,” said Reicher. “If we can figure out how to exploit it, it could be developed in the large megawatt range.”

There are no scientific showstoppers to exploiting this resource, said Reicher, but there are “great engineering challenges.” No such system has been developed anywhere in the world; existing geothermal energy sources rely on heated water and steam that is near the surface of the earth. Furthermore, exploiting this resource requires that holes be drilled as deep as 10 kilometers into the earth and that rocks be fractured at great depths.

Can such deep wells be drilled? “The answer,” said Reicher, “is that the oil industry does drill to those depths. And the oil industry does fracture rock at those depths. Ten kilometers is not an insignificant piece of work, but it is a distance the oil industry knows how to get to.”

FIGURE 8.1 Enhanced geothermal systems could extract energy from Earth’s interior. SOURCE: INL (2006).

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