Could geothermal supply as much as 50% of the world’s energy by 2050?

Geothermal supplies just 0.4% of the world’s energy today, nevertheless it could potentially supply as much as 50% of the world’s energy by 2050, in accordance with Carlos Araque, cofounder and CEO of Quaise Energy, who made that prediction on the SOSV Climate Tech Summit 2022 last week during a panel discussion called, “Is that this geothermal’s moment?”

Geothermal’s profound impact

Quaise is developing a drilling technique that was pioneered at MIT to succeed in the new rock some two to 12 miles beneath the Earth’s surface. Araque was joined by Kathy Hannun, cofounder and president of US residential geothermal company Dandelion Energy. The Dandelion process uses established technology that doesn’t require such deep drilling.

Araque and Hannun went on to not only describe the largest barriers to scaling up their businesses for the world but in addition what other geothermal problems they’re “itching for people to unravel,” in accordance with moderator Candice Ammori, founding father of The Climate Vine, which advises climate tech startups.

First, nonetheless, the 2 described why geothermal is so potentially impactful. Along with being clean and global, geothermal provides a baseload energy source that’s available 24/7. It’s also “essentially the most powerful and abundant renewable on Earth,” said Araque, “Rather more so than wind, solar, nuclear, and all fossil fuels combined.”

As well as, Araque said, it’s necessary to weigh an energy source by its impact on externalities just like the environment, land use, and mineral use:

If you take a look at the [problem] from this lens – how much land use per unit of energy you produce, the quantity of materials essential per unit of energy, and the way much carbon dioxide you produce per unit of energy – you begin realizing that geothermal comes out way, way ahead of anything.

Barriers and solutions

To completely tap the resource, nonetheless, shall be very capital and time intensive. Araque continued:

It’s very hard to attain anything in our space with one million dollars and even $10 million.

You could have to start out playing on the $100 million level and even $1 billion level. That is what it costs to get [deep geothermal] developed and deployed at portfolio levels.

Further, the Quaise technology involved in deep drilling has been demonstrated within the lab but not yet in the sector. And that may take time.

Nonetheless, Araque said that by the top of the last decade, Quaise goals to create power from a coal- or gas-fired power plant that has been converted to geothermal:

You feed in geothermal steam as an alternative of steam from a fossil-fuel boiler. That in a brushstroke decarbonizes the ability plant, and you may repeat that 10,000 times over with other plants.

The important thing to creating deep geothermal a reality? “You leverage the oil and gas industry,” said Araque, who himself comes from fossil fuels. “I feel of them as a ready-made workforce, supply chain, and regulatory framework that may push this into the world at the dimensions that’s required.”

Hannun noted that for Dandelion, simplifying complexity shall be key to bringing down the prices related to using geothermal for heating and cooling of residential homes:

It’s hard to advance our constructing stock and alter the entire buildings that exist already [to geothermal because] they’re all barely different and there’s lots of complexity to administer. So lots of our focus is on making geothermal [heat pumps] as easy to get into homes because it is to put in a furnace or air conditioner.

Potential for entrepreneurs

Ammori ended the session by asking Hannun and Araque about remaining geothermal challenges that other entrepreneurs could tackle. Each agreed that higher imaging systems to see underground are necessary. For deep geothermal, Araque said that there’s a necessity for electronics that may withstand the high temperatures related to the resource. Hannun noted that anything related to weatherizing homes will help the geothermal heating and cooling industry.

She also stressed that for each her and Araque’s industries:

I might encourage entrepreneurs not to only take a look at the central core technology, but in addition the enabling technologies, products, or businesses around permitting, licensing, and transmission. There are [many] things within the ecosystem that have to occur to enable scale.

Araque concluded by noting that the energy transition itself is an unsolved problem:

Don’t for a second think that it’s only a matter of scaling what we have now. There’s loads of space for innovation. That is the best challenge of many generations, not only ours, and we want all human capital on the issue.

Read more: 10 Questions: Geothermal with Dandelion Energy founder Kathy Hannun

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