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Published on July 18th, 2009 | by Susan Kraemer


Geothermal Could be Cheaper than Fossil Fuels with $3 Billion DOE Investment Says NYU Study

July 18th, 2009 by  

[social_buttons] It looks as if Geothermal power could be the genie let out of the bottle to provide us with almost staggering amounts of electricity at just 0.04 cents per kwh.

Geothermal could be cheaper than fossil fuels, according to a study just published at NYU Stern. Yet, strangely, geothermal received the fewest Federal DOE dollars invested in R&D over the last 8 years.

Hm. I wonder why that was?

The first study to compare efficiency improvement of various renewable energy alternatives in response to government funding found  that geothermal has yielded the highest returns per R&D dollars invested by the Department of Energy.

NYU Stern Professor Melissa Schilling; an expert in strategic management and technology and innovation management found that of all renewable energy technologies the performance of geothermal improves the most per dollar of R&D invested. Wind power was the next, and solar power received the most Federal R&D funding.

But they have all lagged fossil fuel funding. The United States still invests more government dollars yearly on R&D for fossil fuel technologies than for all of the renewable energies combined. By contrast, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom spend more R&D on renewable energies than fossil fuel technologies, the study found.

Despite getting the most funding in the US, fossil fuel technologies are no longer improving efficiency much or at all.

Below the fold: one geothermal breakthrough birthed by $1 Million in US DOE R&D funding:

One example of a DOE funded geothermal energy research breakthrough is the creation of a new method of capturing significantly more heat from low-temperature geothermal resources, developed by scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, using $1.2 million as one of 21 DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy grants through the Geothermal Technologies Program.

PNNL’s conversion system exploits the rapid expansion and contraction capabilities of a new biphasic fluid. When exposed to heat brought to the surface from water circulating in moderately hot, underground rock, the thermal-cycling of the biphasic fluid will power a turbine to generate electricity.

To aid in efficiency, scientists added nanostructured metal-organic heat carriers, or MOHCs, which boost the power generation capacity to near that of a conventional steam cycle.

The goal of the project is to enable power generation from low-temperature geothermal resources at an economical cost. The research team is targeting the development of a functioning bench-top prototype generating electricity by the end of the year, according to PNNL Laboratory Fellow Pete McGrail, who says:

“Some novel research on nanomaterials used to capture carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels actually led us to this discovery. Scientific breakthroughs can come from some very unintuitive connections.”


So that’s what we got for a mere $1.2 Million in government funding.

For a one-time investment in R&D by the DOE of $3 Billion, we could have an alternative to fossil fuel, that is cheaper than fossil fuels.

To put that government funding in perspective, we have spent $12 Billion a month, every month in Iraq for 8 years, attempting to preserve our access to just one fossil fuel.

Image from Flikr user Stuck in Customs

Via Green Car Congress 
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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

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