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Google Launches Clean Energy  11/28 07:15

   An advanced geothermal project has begun pumping carbon-free electricity 
onto the Nevada grid to power Google data centers there, Google announced 

   (AP) -- An advanced geothermal project has begun pumping carbon-free 
electricity onto the Nevada grid to power Google data centers there, Google 
announced Tuesday.

   Getting electrons onto the grid for the first time is a milestone many new 
energy companies never reach, said Tim Latimer, CEO and co-founder of Google's 
geothermal partner in the project, Houston-based Fervo Energy.

   "I think it will be big and it will continue to vault geothermal into a lot 
more prominence than it has been," Latimer said in an interview.

   The International Energy Agency has long projected geothermal could be a 
serious solution to climate change. It said in a 2011 roadmap document that 
geothermal could reach some 3.5% of global electricity generation annually by 
2050, avoiding almost 800 megatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

   But that potential has been mostly unrealized up until now. Today's 
announcement could mark a turning point.

   Fervo is using this first pilot to launch other projects that will deliver 
far more carbon-free electricity to the grid. It's currently completing initial 
drilling in southwest Utah for a 400-megawatt project.

   Google and Fervo Energy started working together in 2021 to develop 
next-generation geothermal power. Now that the site near Winnemucca, Nevada is 
operating commercially, its three wells are sending about 3.5 megawatts to the 

   The data centers require more electricity than that, so Google signed other 
agreements for solar and storage too. It has two sites in Nevada, one near Las 
Vegas and the other near Reno. Michael Terrell, who leads decarbonization 
efforts globally at Google, said the company is looking at using geothermal 
energy for other data centers worldwide as a portfolio of carbon-free 

   "We're really hoping that this could be a springboard to much, much more 
advanced geothermal power available to us and others around the world," he said.

   Google announced back in 2020 that it would use carbon-free energy every 
hour of every day, wherever it operates, by 2030.

   Many energy experts believe huge companies like Google can play a catalytic 
role in accelerating clean energy.

   Terrell noted the company was also an early supporter of wind and solar 
projects, helping those markets take off.

   "It's a very similar situation. Now that we've set a goal to be 24/7 
carbon-free energy, we have found it will take more than just wind, solar and 
storage to achieve that goal," Terrell said in an interview. "And frankly to 
get power grids to 24/7 carbon-free energy as well, we're going to need this 
new set of advanced technologies in energy. Looking at this deal with Fervo, we 
saw an opportunity to play a role in helping to take these technologies to 

   The United States leads the world in using the Earth's heat energy for 
electricity generation, but geothermal still accounts for less than half a 
percent of the nation's total utility-scale electricity generation, according 
to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In 2022, that geothermal power 
came from California, Nevada, Utah, Hawaii, Oregon, Idaho and New Mexico.

   Those are states traditionally thought of as having geothermal potential 
because there are reservoirs of steam or very hot water close to the surface in 
the West.

   But Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said earlier this year that advances 
in enhanced geothermal systems will help introduce this form of energy in 
regions where it's been thought to be impossible. Granholm was announcing 
funding for the industry.

   Last year, the Energy Department launched an effort to achieve "aggressive 
cost reductions" in enhanced geothermal systems. This month, in announcing $44 
million to advance geothermal deployment nationwide, DOE said the United States 
has potential for 90 gigawatts of geothermal electricity --- the equivalent of 
powering more than 65 million American homes --- by 2050.

   Enhanced geothermal companies, including Fervo, are now going after heat 
deeper below ground, unlocking potential in many more places. Latimer is a 
former drilling engineer in the oil and gas industry.

   Drilling technology and practices drastically improved during the shale boom 
that transformed the United States into a top oil and gas producer and 
exporter. But there has been very little tech transfer from the oil and gas 
industry to geothermal, said Sarah Jewett, vice president of strategy at Fervo.

   "They were using all of the old, for lack of a better word, janky stuff from 
old-school oil and gas development," she said. "We basically just went to the 
oil field service companies and said, ?Give us all your best stuff.' And we 
have been using all of the modern drilling technology to do our development." 
That has led to far greater efficiency and lower cost, she said.

   In a presentation at ClimateTech 2023 at the Massachusetts Institute of 
Technology, Latimer talked about how Fervo is pioneering horizontal drilling in 
geothermal reservoirs. In Nevada, Fervo drilled some 8,000 feet down, turned 
sideways and drilled about 3,250 feet horizontally.

   By drilling horizontally, Fervo can reach much more of the hot reservoir, 
instead of having to have to drill many vertical wells.

   Fervo pumps cold water down an injection well, then over hot rock 
underground to another well, the production well. The path between is created 
by fracking, or fracturing the rock. The water heats up to nearly 400 degrees 
Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius) before returning to the surface. Once there, 
it transfers its heat to another liquid with a low boiling point, creating 
steam. The pressure of steam expanding spins a turbine to produce electricity 
like in a coal or natural gas-fired plant. The geothermal water, now cooled, is 
put back down the injection well to start the cycle again, in a closed-loop 

   Well tests this summer were very favorable, according to Fervo. Latimer 
wants to replicate them now in as many places as possible, as quickly as 
possible, to help transition away from coal, oil and natural gas to reduce 
greenhouse gas emissions.

   The venture capital firm DCVC invested $31 million in Fervo last year, said 
Rachel Slaybaugh, a partner there. They did it, she said, because Fervo was 
ready to add power to the grid while competitors weren't there yet. Slaybaugh 
said it's a plus that Latimer used to run a drill rig--- it was the right team, 
who knew what kind of company they were building.

   Both Fervo and Google said geothermal is valuable as an "always-on" clean 
technology that can be scaled up before 2030 as the world tries to cut its 
greenhouse gas emissions. Fervo's next project, in Beaver County, Utah is 
slated to begin delivering clean power to the grid in 2026 and reach full 
production in 2028.

   "This is unlocking something deeply sought after in the market today as we 
transition away from fossil fuels, and that is, round-the-clock renewable 
energy," Jewett said.

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