The long, hard slog to unlock the potential of geothermal energy


A few years ago, excitement about the next generation of geothermal energy technology — called enhanced or engineered geothermal, or EGS for short — was at a high point. Google advocated funding for the tech before Congress as part of its now defunct “RE<C” project, while the Department of Energy provided substantial financial support for it through the stimulus program. Around the same time, MIT published an influential report that concluded that the tech could provide a massive amount of low-cost energy by 2050 with a reasonable amount of investment.

Why such exuberance? Traditional geothermal power plants tap into the somewhat rare earthly occurrence of hot underground rocks meeting significant water or steam, which can be pushed to the surface and then recirculated to keep a plant running. States like Nevada and California have these types of spots, as well as countries like Indonesia, Ethiopia, Kenya and others. Geothermal wells…

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