Geothermal runs into trouble

From the NYTimes:
A $17 million energy project in California that was supposed to demonstrate the feasibility of extracting vast amounts of heat from the earth’s bedrock has been suspended indefinitely after the drilling essentially snagged on surface rock formations.

The project, run by AltaRock Energy, represents the Obama administration’s first major test of geothermal energy as a significant alternative to fossil fuels. But since drilling began in June, the project has encountered earthquake fears and scheduling delays.

Last month, federal scientists said that the company had fallen far behind schedule because a huge rig hired to drill down about 12,000 feet, or more than two miles, on federal land had not been able to pierce surface formations called caprock.
Geothermal looks great on paper, but this episode highlights just one of the hurdles between the idea and clean, constant baseload powered by the earth's core. Keep in mind that they don't even know until the hole is drilled whether it will be hot enough to generate power. As my colleague said, the combination of oil E&P risks with power generation returns means pretty unattractive economics.

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