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Iceland Is Harvesting Renewable Energy From Molten Magma

Oct 25, 2016 04:50 AM EDT
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Iceland is tapping renewable energy from the Earth's inner heat. Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) is looking to create the hottest hole in the world by the end of the year, with temperatures reaching from 400 to 1,000 degrees Celsius, capable of producing 10 times more electricity than traditional geothermal energy sources.

The Earth's geothermal energy or inner heat is one of the biggest sources of renewable energy. One example of a traditional geothermal project is hot steam from ground vents, which could power turbines and produce electricity.

Iceland is already known to avoid the use of fossil fuels and is continuously looking for ways to tap renewable energy sources. One way is to dig much deeper into the Earth to tap the energy potential of molten magma. Since August, IDDP has been using its rig named "Thor" to drill 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) into the Earth's crust, down into the landscape of old lava flows in Reykjanes in the southwest region of Iceland.

According to Albert Albertsson, assistant director of Icelandic geothermal energy company HS Orka, the drilling will penetrate a landward extension of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which is a major boundary between the Earth's tectonic plates.

"People have drilled into hard rock at this depth, but never before into a fluid system like this," Albertsson told New Scientist. Reaching down the depths of the hot seawater at this location underground, the researchers of IDDP aim to find water in the form of "supercritical steam," which is neither liquid nor gas and holds more heat energy. The steam has the potential to create 50 megawatts of energy, which could power 50,000 homes, compared to the typical 5-megawatt geothermal well.

The new hot hole is IDDP's second deep well. The first was in the Krafla geothermal field in the northeast region in 2009, where magma was unexpectedly struck at about 2 km down.

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