Fervo Energy says it has achieved a technological breakthrough. It conducted a 30-day well test at its site in northern Nevada and a “flowrate of 63 liters per second at high temperatures enables 3.5 megawatts of electricity production.” The company said the test resulted in flow and power output records for an improved geothermal system (EGS) and that it was completed without incident.
One megawatt can power 750 homes at once. Fervo is expected to connect its Project Red site to the grid this year. It will be used to power and some of the company’s other Nevada infrastructure. and Fervo in 2021 to develop a “next-generation geothermal power project.”
This is the first time an energy company has demonstrated that an EGS can work on a commercial scale, according to . It’s been a long road to get to this point, as scientists have been trying to make EGS a reality since the 1970s.
For a natural geothermal system to produce electricity, a combination of heat, fluid and rock permeability is required, as Bloomberg notes. In many places, the rock has the required level of heat, but not enough permeability for fluid to flow through it.
An EGS creates this permeability artificially by drilling deep underground and injecting fluid to create fractures in the rock. That approach could increase the number of potential sites for a geothermal power plant.
Fervo said it was the first company to “successfully drill a horizontal pair of wells for commercial geothermal production, achieving lateral lengths of 3,250 feet, reaching temperatures of 191°C, and has proven controlled flow through rigorous tracking testing.”
One of the major advantages of geothermal power plants is that they are completely carbon-free — Google will run all its offices and data centers on carbon-free energy by 2030. These plants can also operate at any time (unlike solar and wind), which makes geothermal energy an attractive source of renewable power. However, cost reductions and regulatory red tape are obstacles to making EGS more widely available, according to Fervo CEO Tim Latimer.
The company hopes to replicate its success at a Utah site. If Fervo sees similar results there and it successfully implements design upgrades to boost output, the site is expected to generate enough electricity to power 300,000 homes simultaneously, Latimer said. That’s nearly a quarter of all Utah homes.
“Achieving our goal of operating on 24/7 carbon-free energy will require new sources of stable, clean power to complement variable renewables such as wind and solar,” Michael Terrell, Google senior director for energy and climate, said in a statement. “We partnered with Fervo in 2021 because we see the significant potential of their geothermal technology to unlock a critical source of 24/7 carbon-free energy at scale, and we’re excited to see Fervo that it has achieved significant technical significance.”