Iceland is known for its powerful lavas and has been exploiting geothermal energy for decades. Now, a new project is about to be launched in Iceland which will entail drilling down into the molten magma inside volcanoes to create one of the most powerful new sustainable energy source.
This will consist of drilling a 5-km (3.1-mile) deep hole in a volcano located at the south-west corner of Iceland, which is also pitted to be world’s hottest hole, having temperatures between 400 and 1,000 degrees Celsius.
The temperature is of utmost importance, as this can be used to generate supercritical steam which can run a turbine producing up to 50 megawatts of electricity. This will make it ten times more efficient than the traditional geothermal wells around the globe.
In Iceland, more than a quarter of the country is powered by geothermal energy wells, which makes this new technique all the more useful for them.
And to cut down of the inefficiencies in the process, the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) is attempting to bypass the rocks altogether and drill into the magma oozing into volcanoes.
This technique was invented when the IDDP accidentally drilled into a magma reservoir while trying to construct a traditional geothermal well in 2009. This hole was about 2 kilometres (1.25 miles) below the surface, and when they poured water down the hole, they discovered it to be a hugely powerful geothermal well producing over 30 megawatts of power.
Continuing that finding, the process was repeated for several holes in the geologically active Reykjanes region of Iceland. Currently, the researchers hope to find the Mid-Atlantic Ridge which is the boundary between Earth’s tectonic plates and the magma temperatures rise to 1,000 degrees Celsius.
Albert Albertsson, assistant director of an Icelandic geothermal-energy company called HS Orka said.
“People have drilled into hard rock at this depth, but never before into a fluid system like this.”
The temperatures and pressures in this kind of well are so high that it is expected to generate ‘supercritical steam’, which is a state of matter that is neither liquid nor gas. It is useful because it can hold a lot more heat energy than either liquid or gas. This steam is capable of producing energy capacity of up to 50 megawatts, which is around ten times more than a typical geothermal well, and can provide energy to 50,000 homes!
Arnar Guðmundsson from Invest in Iceland, a government agency that promotes energy development, said,
“If they can get supercritical steam in deep boreholes, that will make an order of magnitude difference to the amount of geothermal energy the wells can produce.”
Although this is all still theoretical, if it does materialise, this can change the renewable energy equation big time! What are your thoughts on this new energy prospect? Let us know in the comments’ section below!