Google’s geothermal energy project is operational

Isbel Lázaro.

El proyecto de energía geotérmica de Google está operativo

Inspenet, December 5, 2023.

A geothermal energy project that drives decarbonization

Google has set an ambitious goal of operating its data centers and campus offices using carbon-free energy (CFE) every hour and day of the week by 2030. This objective seeks to promote the decarbonization of electrical systems globally.

Two years ago, the technology giant joined forces with the start-up specialized in clean energy, Fervo Energy , with the purpose of developing an Enhanced Geothermal Energy (EGS) project. Today, the project is operational and carbon-free electricity is already being supplied to the local grid that powers Google’s data centers in Nevada, according to a recent press release.

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Notably, earlier this year, Fervo Energy made significant progress in the geothermal space, setting flow and power records for an EGS, generating an impressive 3.5 megawatts of electricity. This amount of energy is enough to power approximately 2,600 homes. Fervo Energy’s groundbreaking test result represents the first case of an energy company demonstrating that an EGS can operate on a commercial scale.

Unlike conventional geothermal plants, which rely on naturally heated water sources, Fervo uses innovative drilling techniques from the oil and gas industry to harness heat that was previously difficult to access.

The process to harness geothermal energy

To harness subsurface heat at Google’s Nevada facility, Fervo drilled two horizontal wells more than 2,000 meters deep, which it then extended horizontally to reach a greater extent of the warm reservoir. In addition, a second horizontal well was drilled to intercept the rock fractures. The company then pumped cold water from the first well through the fractures to the second well, where the water absorbed heat from the surrounding rock. This process generated steam and produced carbon-free energy (CFE). Thanks to the installed fiber optic cables, data is collected showing the flow, temperature and performance of the geothermal system in real time.

As a result, it has been possible to develop a geothermal power plant capable of generating carbon-free energy (CFE) around the clock using a smaller space compared to other clean energy sources, taking advantage of the skills, knowledge and supply chains of other industries.

Google has supported the project from its initial stages to its successful conclusion, working closely with Fervo to overcome challenges and demonstrate the viability of this technology. Additionally, Google recently announced a partnership with Project InnerSpace, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the global development of geothermal energy, with the goal of accelerating the adoption of this type of energy.

Fervo is currently building an EGS facility in Utah that will generate 400 megawatts of carbon-free electricity 24/7. This volume of electricity will be enough to supply 300,000 homes. The facility is expected to supply power to the grid in 2026 and reach full-scale production two years later.

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