Geothermal energy has the potential to power the entire earth should all of it be tapped. Unfortunately, with today’s technology there are still many areas that cannot access this energy without incurring high costs. A recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) states that it is possible to increase global production of heat and energy tenfold through geothermal means by 2050.
Currently, geothermal accounts for 0.3 percent for electricity and 0.2 percent for heat of the world’s total energy use. The IEA believes that this number could be increased to 3.9 percent and 3.5 respectively by developing untapped geothermal resources. Milou Beerepoot a senior analyst at the IEA, states that there are many untapped reservoirs in developing and emerging economies and in deep water aquifer systems, which can reach depths of 3 km.
Most of the geothermal energy found within drilling distance is found in rock that is dry and impermeable, known as hot rock resources. There is current technology to tap these rocks known as enhanced geothermal system (EGS). The EGS pushes water through the well at sufficient pressure to create fractures in the rock. Other wells are then drilled to pump up the water which has been heated by the hot rocks. While the EGS is currently in demonstration phase, approximately 50 pilot plants will go up within the next decade.
In order to reach the goals set for 2050, the technology must provide an economic incentive as well as stream-lining permit procedures. With technology always improving, it should not take too long before other processes are created to better utilize geothermal.