google geo thermal project

In Nevada, a first-of-its-kind geothermal project has begun operations and will provide sustainable energy to Google data centers.

Google and Fervo, a firm that has created innovative technologies for using geothermal energy, are collaborating. The 3.5 MW facility is comparatively tiny because it employs different strategies than conventional geothermal plants. To put things in perspective, one megawatt can supply the energy needed for around 750 houses. The project will supply energy to two of Google’s data centers located outside of Las Vegas and Reno via the local grid.

It’s a component of Google’s ambition to run its operations entirely on carbon-free power by 2030. It will need to bring additional clean energy sources online to accomplish that aim. Furthermore, it views geothermal as a crucial component of the electricity mix of the future, ready to step in when solar and wind power decline.

Michael Terrell, senior director of energy and environment at Google, says, “If you think about how much we advanced wind, solar, and lithium-ion storage, here we are — this is kind of the next set of stuff and we feel like companies have a huge role to play in advancing these technologies.”

Since 2021, when Google said that it was entering into the “world’s first corporate agreement to develop a next-generation geothermal power project,” the project has been in development. Geothermal energy harnesses the heat that exists within the Earth. However, this endeavor is not your standard geothermal plant, which normally draws hot fluids from underground reservoirs to create steam, which powers turbines.

According to Terrell, “there’s hot rock, but there’s no fluid” in the periphery of an established geothermal field, which is where the new project was constructed. Fervo had to drill two horizontal wells through which it pumps water to produce geothermal energy there. By forcing cold water through rock fissures, Fervo warms the water to the point where it produces steam above the surface. Since the system is closed-loop, the water is recycled, which is crucial in a state like Nevada that experiences frequent droughts.

Additionally, Fervo put fiber optic cables within the two wells to collect data in real-time on the geothermal system’s performance, flow, and temperature. These strategies were taken from the oil and gas sector to access energy supplies that would not have been available otherwise.

Because it was already utilizing technology that had been applied in the oil and gas industry, Terrell adds, “This one was super promising to us.” Therefore, we believe it had a great deal of promise and should be online as soon as possible. In addition to this agreement with Google, Fervo has the US Department of Energy and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Bill Gates’ climate investment organization, supporting its technology.

In contrast to wind and solar farms, which depend on the weather and time of day, geothermal projects have a higher reliability of power production. Google is trying to get more projects like these online in part because of this.

To “leverage their respective strengths to address critical challenges facing geothermal development, including the development of a global geothermal resource mapping and assessment tool,” the company and the charity Project InnerSpace launched a new cooperation in September.

The business isn’t saying where else it plans to use geothermal energy for its data centers just yet. Data centers are well known for consuming enormous amounts of power—roughly 1% of all electricity produced worldwide.