Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Clean Power

Harness a Volcano to Power Your Town

A Japanese Volcano

Great Balls of Geothermal Fire!

Everyone knows that volcanoes have plenty of heat to spare, and normally we prefer that they keep it to themselves. Now, with energy prices rising, some communities are starting to reconsider their rumbling neighbors.

Geothermal energy relies on heat and water beneath the earth’s crust. Together they can create steam to turn a turbine. The trick is access: most of the earth’s heat is located miles beneath the crust. Even active volcanoes can hide their volitile energy under very hard igneous rock. Young volcanoes can have shallow magma reservoirs and sometimes they still have softer earthen crust. Just add water into this situation and you have potent potential for geothermal energy.

Prism Lake, Yellowstone Nat. ParkVolanoes are not the best geologic features for geothermal energy. Hot springs, like those found in Iceland or Yellowstone National Park, are the easiest to harness because the water is already on the surface. At Yellowstone the water is often already boiling at the surface, and higher temperatures beneath the crust drive some of the world’s most famous geysers.

One of the best places in the world to develop geothermal energy is Newberry Crater in Oregon. The site is emblematic of the issues facing many geothermal projects. Development has been stalled or abandoned over the years due to economic and environmental issues. Newberry Crater’s geology also makes it a remote, beautiful place. Developers must compete with recreational and ecological needs while trying to reach the nearest transmission lines. The economics of developing there have been tempting for years, but with today’s energy prices now the site is downright tantalizing. Davenport Power has already begun the first phases of planning and test drilling, but could face powerful opposition.

Old FaithfulSome scientists claim that the United States has enough geothermal resources to provide 20% or more of the nation’s energy needs. More than a dozen states are known to own lucrative geothermal resources, and most of those states have already begun to develop them. The first geothermal power plant was built in Italy in 1904, and many European States are turning to untapped resources beneath their feet.

In August, Alaska will sell prospecting rights to Mount Spurr, one of several volcanoes located near Anchorage. It is estimated that Mount Spurr could generate “tens of hundreds of megawatts of energy”. Alaska may also sell similar prospecting rights to Mount Augustine, an explosive volcano located on its own uninhabited island. Authorities admit that Augustine poses “special safety challenges“. Both erupt relatively frequently.

An existing geothermal facility near Santa Rosa, California has been generating enough energy to power San Francisco for years. As one of the largest geothermal developments in the world, it illustrates the potential scale of geothermal. Like Iceland, some cities or nations could harvest a significant portion of their electricity from the ground.

No one has managed to “tap the (volcanoes of the) Rockies” just yet. Special safety challenges will require special safety innovations. Nevertheless, the potential return could be as enourmous as the forces of nature at work: clean, green, unlimited energy for the rest of this geologic era. Unlike solar and wind, geothermal generates a steady supply of energy 24 hours a day, everyday. Anything so abundant and predictable won’t go untapped for long.

Related Reading:

Geothermal is smart

What about Ground Source Heat Pumps?

Enhanced Geothermal Systems

Some Politicians like Gothermal

Image of a Japanese Volcano via w00kie on the Flickr Creative Commons. Images of Yellowstone Nationap Park are my own.

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Former Tesla Battery Expert Leading Lyten Into New Lithium-Sulfur Battery Era — Podcast:

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
If you like what we do and want to support us, please chip in a bit monthly via PayPal or Patreon to help our team do what we do! Thank you!
Written By

is an environmentalist who loves to write. She grew up across the southeastern USA and especially love the Appalachian mountains. She went to school in the northeast USA in part to witness different mindsets and lifestyles than those of my southern stomping grounds. She majored in English Lit. and Anthropology. She has worked as a whitewater rafting guide, which introduced her to a wilderness and the complex issues at play in the places where relatively few people go. She also taught English in South Korea for a year, which taught her to take nothing for granted.


You May Also Like

Clean Power

Decentralization will promote decarbonization by deploying distributed energy resources, shrinking energy losses, and enabling energy storage.


OEMs that try to roll bespoke engineered solutions, niche chemistries, or custom designed battery assemblies are making the wrong strategic decisions.


Nuclear for commercial ships is so obviously flawed from a business perspective that I didn't even bother to include it in my quadrant chart...


The future of all ground transportation and an awful lot of aviation and marine shipping being electric, low-carbon, quieter, and a lot less smelly...

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.