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Geologists Cut Into the Heart of Icelandic Volcano for Energy

Feb 10, 2017 02:54 PM EST

With the overwhelming heat and power of volcanos, it's a shame the world doesn't take advantage of the geothermal energy it offers. Geothermal Energy Association's (GEA) 2016 power production report revealed that the world only utilized about six to seven percent of the its geothermal power potential.

Iceland studies its volcanos

In terms of this energy source, Iceland leads the way globally with roughly 90 percent of the country's households heated with geothermal energy, a report from Live Science revealed.

Recently, the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) drilled almost 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) into the volcanic belly of Reykjanes Peninsula to observe the feasibility of volcanic electricity. At this point, the temperature was measured at 800 degrees Fahrenheit (427 degrees Celcius, with water deposits reaching the "supercritical" state that's necessary to produce volcanic geothermal energy.

How can volcanoes change the geothermal energy landscape?

Geothermal energy harnesses the heat beneath the Earth's surface to generate electricity. In volcanoes, this heat is from the "supercritical water", which is a state that's neither liquid nor gas, achieved from the extreme heat and pressure when molten rock and water meet. This type of water can create up to ten times more power than other geothermal sources.

It's not just Iceland that's taking advantage of this ultra-powerful energy source.

"Worldwide, geothermal is booming," Benjamin Matek, analyst and research projects manager for the GEA, told CNBC in a report from 2015. "If you look at Indonesia, at the Philippines and Kenya, they're probably putting up a power plant every other month."

IDDP will be continuing its explorations through 2018 in hopes of discovering a way to use the volcano's thermal energy. After al, they pointed out, harnessing this power could ultimately be a more efficient energy source.

""If deep supercritical wells, here and elsewhere in the world, can produce more power than conventional geothermal wells, fewer wells would be needed to produce the same power output, leading to less environmental impact and improved economics," IDDP said in the statement.

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