August 21, 2015
Rivers of Fire, Rivers of Energy
This incredible video got me thinking.
Surely, the immense heat emanating from lava rivers could be captured and transformed into electricity?
The question can be answered in just three words – yes it can.
In 2009, engineers drilling a borehole in Krafla, Iceland, accidentally hit a chamber filled with magma (underground lava) 3.1 miles beneath the Earth’s surface. Their sensors revealed unimaginable super-hot temperatures of 1000 °C.
The engineers (from the Icelandic Deep Drilling Project) were fascinated, and they quickly came up with an idea. Instead of filling the hole with cement, why not try to generate energy from the tremendous heat?
They didn’t just dream though, they turned their idea into reality.
The team secured the borehole using cement and steel. Next, they created a perforated section at the bottom of the well. The magma-generated heat then built up the hole and super-hot steam flowed up the well for the following two years.
The magma-heated steam generated 36MW of electrical power. This is far in excess of the average wind turbine, which generates between 1 and 3MW.
Wilfred Elders, professor emeritus of geology at the University of California Riverside, said the project was “amazing” and “could lead to a revolution in the energy efficiency of high-temperature geothermal projects in the future.”
The scientists at the Icelandic Deep Drilling Project can be credited with creating the world’s first geothermal system supplied by heat directly from molten magma.
While lava power is of course not applicable to most countries, it does provide an exciting addition to the world’s clean energy sources.
Craig J Todd – Freelance writer with a passion for tech, trends and simplicity.
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