Thursday, August 21, 2008

Geothermal Power for DOD Grid Skipping

Normally I keep my blogging worlds separate, but the minute I published a recent post on geothermal energy for the Discovery-Powrtalk site, I knew it was a promising application for DOD and I'd want to mention here at the DOD Energy Blog.

To recap 2008 DOD power challenges most simply, one can say there are two major problems, each that brings substantial mission risk: (1) the enormous amount of fossil fuel required to operate mobility systems like planes, tactical vehicles, ships, etc., and (2) the precariously vulnerable position most bases and installations are in due to their near-total dependency on the grid for their electricity requirements. The brittleness of the grid is well documented, and its susceptibility to natural and man-made outages (think: sabotage) is well documented.

This post is about a possible solution to grid dependency, by giving each base its own local source of continuous power by tapping into an energy source that's below the base. This decentralized approach to power production becomes possible when a more proactive design for extracting geothermal energy is employed, vs. tapping geothermal sites only along fault lines. While there's still some work to be done building out the potential of what the DOE calls Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS), this appears to have real merit, and can work in tandem with other on-base or off-base alternative energy platforms like solar and wind.

Note: some traditional geothermal sites are already deployed in DOD. For an example, see NWC China Lake which has enough capacity to power the entire base. But the advent of EGS designs may make it possible to power many more (if not most) bases and free them from concerns about the national grid.

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