Harnessing the Volcano

Here’s an energy source you probably haven’t thought about: volcanoes. “Ormat Technologies (ORA) has tapped into the Pacaya volcano in Guatemala,” reports Stockerblog (citing a Reuters article). “The country’s goal is to have 60 percent of its energy generated from volcanoes, along with hydro power. Guatemala isn’t the only country tapping into this source of power. There are plenty of other Central American countries jumping on the bandwagon, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.” Volcanoes may also be useful on the global-warming front too. [%comments]

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  1. Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team says:

    Any heat source can be harnessed as a thermodynamic engine. The problem with volcanoes is their instability, toxic gas, heat anc chemical corrosiveness, earthquakes, difficult terrrain, and far location from cities.

    Building a city close to a volcano can be deadly as Pompei demonstrated. A volcano can be a lousy neighbor.

    And while capital mmg may be happy to finance alternative power, building a $1 billion volcao powered plant on top of a volcano, is really a risky capital venture–a Casino project in Las Vegas is less risky.

    Geothermal power far from the Caldera is more palatable.

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  2. James says:

    Makes sense to me. I’ve sometimes wondered why Hawai’i doesn’t run on geothermal power, instead of importing expensive fossil fuels.

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  3. Emmi says:

    This may be a case of out of the frying pan, into the fire. Dams disrupt species (like salmon) migration, change the chemical balance of rivers and lowers the dissolved oxygen of the water. We do not know the implications of truly large-scale use.

    And spewing sulfur into the air? Do we really want to increase acid rain and harm people living nearby? Volcanic energy is still finite and can damage the resources.

    Using up our water resources is a real danger. Producing toxins is another one. We need a better plan. Wind and solar, plus conservation and a good rail system / bike paths seem like better choices.


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  4. Eric M. Jones says:

    There is a difference between geothermal energy and volcanoes. Geothermal energy is much longer lasting and more practical for generating power. Those countries that have tapped geothermal energy have struggled long and hard to make it work. Volcanoes? Good luck.

    Years ago a company tried to make lava building blocks where a flow of lava was directed into molds. But cost is everything in engineering and they couldn’t make it work.

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  5. David Sucher says:

    Mr. Jones.
    Please take a look at Iceland.
    It has been extremely successful with geothermal power.

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  6. James says:

    Re #4: “Those countries that have tapped geothermal energy have struggled long and hard to make it work.”

    Strange, ’cause there’s a geothermal plant just up the road from me that’s been quietly cranking out 100 MW or so for the last couple of decades.

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  7. colin says:

    Big Island runs a geothermal plant less than 20 miles from the active caldera on Hawaii. They harness 40% of their electrical needs for the entire island from 6 production wells. They have been in production since 1999….started by an Israeli company. They are expanding, but need more functioning wells to generate more power…which takes licensing. The government in Hawaii is tight on their drilling licenses. Something to do with upsetting Pele I guess.

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  8. mark says:

    May be it would be possible after one day we can control the volcano!

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