Tech giant Google just made a big commitment to next-generation renewable energy through a deal with Fervo Energy to develop a new geothermal power project for its data center operations.
In 2022, Fervo will begin supplying power to the Nevada energy grid as part of a development that could usher in a surge in geothermal project developments across the country.
Harnessing the heat from the earth to create steam and power turbines is nothing new, but Fervo and other startups like AltaRock Energy, Eavor, GreenFire Energy, Quaise, Loki Geothermal, and Sage Geosystems, are leveraging new technologies like machine learning and advanced drilling brought in some cases from the oil and gas industry to open up new opportunities for power production.
Advanced drilling, fiber optic sensing, and new analytics mean that next-generation geothermal could up to 120 gigawatts of clean energy to the US Grid, according to estimates from the Department of Energy.
Underscoring just how important big data is to the prospect of new geothermal prospecting and power development, Google and Fervo also announced a partnership to develop software that can respond to energy demand from utilities and power grids — providing an ability to smooth the load on grids when other renewable sources of power are variable.
To develop its geothermal resources, Fervo drops fiber-optic cables into wells to collect information on flow, temperature and performance of a geothermal resource. That data collection allows the company to optimize its development activities to control flow at different depths.