The potential of geothermal energy as a carbon-free power source is well known. Now companies such as Google are helping to unlock it. 

Corporate America has learned to love renewables. Now, it is beginning to dabble in next-generation climate solutions. An advanced geothermal project supported by Google began generating electricity last week, a big step in the search for technology that can affordably fill gaps in wind and solar generation with carbon-free power. The small facility, a pilot project in northern Nevada, uses drilling and fracking techniques honed by the oil and gas industry to coax heat from the Earth to generate power — without the emissions associated with its fossil fuel brethren. 

“Data centers and traditionally renewable energy sources don’t necessarily line up too well,” said Timothy Lieuwen, executive director of the Strategic Energy Institute at the Georgia Tech. “Renewables are not dispatchable, and data centers have some of the highest reliability requirements on the grid. “The value of dispatchability,” he added, “is just going to rise as the percentage of wind and solar goes up.”

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A geothermal production well and the Blundell Geothermal Power Plant near Milford, Utah. This well provides 400 degree steam and hot water from deep underground to run the turbines at the power plant. Credit: Jon G. Fuller/VW Pics/ Universal Images Group via etty Images
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