Google launches first pioneering geothermal venture in Nevada

  • Google’s first geothermal energy project up and running in Nevada becomes a major milestone in providing clean energy for its data centres.
  • Through a partnership with startup Fervo Energy, the geothermal technology provides an innovative and reliable source of power in drought-prone areas.
  • Despite significant upfront capital costs, geothermal energy is considered beneficial in the long run.

Google’s groundbreaking geothermal project is delivering carbon-free electricity(CFE) to power its Nevada data centers.

It’s an important step in Google’s goal of exclusively powering all its data centers and offices using CFE by 2030.

Google is currently working with startup Fervo Energy. Earlier this year, Fervo made a breakthrough with its enhanced geothermal system (EGS). It has the capacity to generate 3.5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 2,600 homes.

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Fervo’s innovative approach powers Nevada

In contrast to traditional geothermal power plants, EGS stands out in Nevada, a region prone to drought.

Fervo’s unique approach involves drilling underground and injecting fluids to create fractures in the rock. This method transforms geothermal energy into electricity through a water-circulation process, providing a stable supply of carbon-free power to the grid.

The key to a sustainable electricity future

Google sees geothermal energy as a key part of the future power mix, complementing wind and solar energy. EGS utilises underground heat to generate electricity. In contrast to other clean energy sources such as solar and wind, EGS can be operated 24/7, regardless of the time of day.

In addition, EGS poses a lower risk of water contamination than some conventional energy development methods because the reservoirs are typically located deeper underground, away from groundwater or near-surface drinking water sources.

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Google’s inaugural geothermal project in Nevada marks a significant achievement in powering its data centers with clean energy.

Cost dynamics

However, significant capital investment is required to ensure that the project runs smoothly. Geothermal energy production costs include upfront capital and ongoing operation and maintenance costs.

The initial cost of a geothermal power plant in the U.S. is about $2,500 per installed kilowatt of capacity, while the global average installed cost ranges from $2,700 to $5,600 per kilowatt.

Operation and maintenance costs were $0.01 to $0.03 per kWh in the U.S., and the total cost of geothermal power in 2016 ranged from $0.078 to $0.225 cents per kWh.

Notably, the cost of drilling is the most expensive component, which can run into the millions of dollars per well.

Despite the substantial initial capital investment, geothermal energy is deemed cost-effective in the long term, mainly owing to its minimal ongoing operation and maintenance expenses and the reliability of geothermal power generation. Google anticipates that geothermal energy will play a pivotal role in the future of clean energy.


Elma Yuan

Elma Yuan was a junior reporter at BTW media interested in media and communication.

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