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The largely untapped energy source beneath our feet » Yale Climate Connections


Under the surface of the Earth is a largely untapped source of energy: geothermal heat.

Beard: “The core of our Earth is a molten ball of energy that is the temperature of the surface of the sun … and so underneath the ground, it’s actually incredibly hot.”

Jamie Beard is executive director of Project InnerSpace, a nonprofit working to accelerate the development of geothermal power.

She says underground reservoirs of hot water and steam provide clean heat, which can be used to drive the turbines that create electricity at power plants or power industrial boilers at factories.

In the U.S., geothermal power plants are concentrated in Hawaii and Western states, where underground heat is found closer to the Earth’s surface.

Building geothermal power plants in other parts of the country would require drilling deeper.

Beard: “Drilling is expensive, and cost has held back geothermal in significant ways.”

But she says recent technological advances could make it easier and cheaper to drill for geothermal.

Beard: “So all of a sudden, it opens up this frontier of where we can now do geothermal, which is really cool and really exciting.”

So if deep drilling can be done in new areas, geothermal could play a larger role in the global transition to clean energy.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy / ChavoBart Digital Media


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