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Iceland taps the ultimate renewable energy source: Earth's magma

Lucas Mearian | Feb. 3, 2014
Boring thousands of meters into the ground, Icelanders broke through to the magma layer, uncovering a vast ocean of lava that is now being used to produce steam power.

The mantle is the next layer below the crust. The mantle is about 1,800 miles thick and makes up about 70% of the planet's mass. Researchers believe the mantle is where most of the Earth's internal heat is located because of its sheer size and because most of it is molten rock.

While the IDDP-1 is not the first bore hole to reach the planet's magma, it is the first time the IDDP was able to harness the mantle's heat to produce a steam pipe that could power a plant. In 2007, Puna Geothermal Venture, which was looking for ways to produces geothermal power using Hawaii's volcanoes, drilled 2.5 kilometers into Hawaii's Big Island, and broke through to the mantle.

"The success of this drilling and research is amazing to say the least, and could in the near future lead to a revolution in energy efficiency in high-temperature geothermal areas of the world," the IDDP stated.

While the hole ultimately had to be closed after a few months, the IDDP said by successfully drilling the hole and carrying out experiments, it demonstrated that a high-enthalpy (energy) geothermal system can be created using the Earth's magma.

The IDDP-1 geothermal boring operation as seen from a distance on Iceland's barren landscape. (Photo: IDDP)

"What is the future and do the results have a practical value? Sure, the future is bright and the answer is 'yes'. Although the IDDP-1 hole is unusable at the moment, in [the] future the aim is to drill a similar hole and/or to repair IDDP 1 hole," IDDP stated. "The experiment at Krafla suffered various setbacks and tried personnel and equipment throughout. However, the process itself was very instructive, and... comprehensive reports on practical lessons learned are nearing completion."


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