Sartup Highlight: AltaRock Energy Inc.

Energy sources that are not derived from or associated with fossilized carbon (oil, coal, methane, etc.) are vital to our eco-responsible energy independence. The success of this ambitious goal will require a balanced portfolio of sustainable energy technologies. In the long list of companies developing ‘green’ energy, today’s Startup Highlight, AltaRock Energy Inc, is based on an energy source that the media seldom discusses —  geothermal.

Engineered Geothermal SystemsAltaRock Energy Inc. develops engineered geothermal systems to provide renewable energy 24 hours a day. This clean energy source emits merely 5% of carbon as coal plants. Much of this carbon can then be injected back into the earth to reduce carbon emissions to approximately 0.1%. While geothermal energy has been extracted for decades, AltaRock has engineered the traditional geothermal systems to allow geothermal development in locations without conventional resources. The limitation of locating a subterranean hot water reservoir is overcome by creating artificial reservoirs in the Earth’s hot basement rocks.

As illustrated, the basis for geothermal energy are simple:
1) Pump cold water into the Earth to create a reservoir in the hot rock basement
2) The reservoir gets heated by the Earth’s geothermal activity
3) The hot water is then pumped back up, producing steam
4a) Steam then drives turbines to generate electricity
4b) Resulting cold water is pumped back into the reservoir

This technology also poses some concerns:
– Injecting water into dry rock may destabilize the area
– This process may inadvertently cool the hot rocks as seen with reduced energy production in some locations, thus questioning the renewable nature of this process
– Contamination of water with trace minerals extracted from the rock (mercury, arsenic, etc.)

Geothermal systems can accommodate limitations associated with water consumption and pollution. The largest geothermal energy plant in the world, the Geysers, is now using  treated sewage from Santa Rosa, CA.

AltaRock Energy Inc. has secured over $26 million dollars to develop their technology and is exploring over 600,000 acres in California, Oregon, and Washington for engineered geothermal energy plant placement. The United States possess vast Geothermal energy resources which, according to a recent study, may provide up to 10% of our energy by 2050.geomap2

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5 Comments

  1. While this looks like a way to reduce dependence on fossil fuels I am not exactly warm to the idea. Intuition tells me that there will be some rather negative side affects to doing this on a large scale throughout the country. Perhaps I am mistaken though.

  2. Thor says:

    Can you expand on those negative side effects? Do they go beyond the the concerns listed in the article?

  3. jerry cress says:

    this is forward thinking with more upside than downside. I hope the project in anderson springs goes forward since it is not located on a fault line.

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