New type of geothermal power plant powers data centers in the desert

Ars Technica » Scientific Method 2023-11-29

Power plant from above

Enlarge (credit: Google)

Earlier this month, one corner of the Internet got a little bit greener, thanks to a first-of-its-kind geothermal operation in the northern Nevada desert. Project Red, developed by a geothermal startup called Fervo, began pushing electrons onto a local grid that includes data centers operated by Google. The search company invested in the project two years ago as part of its efforts to make all of its data centers run on green energy 24/7.

Project Red is small—producing between 2 and 3 megawatts of power, or enough to power a few thousand homes—but it is a crucial demonstration of a new approach to geothermal power that could make it possible to harness the Earth’s natural heat anywhere in the world.

Hot rock is everywhere, with temperatures rising hundreds of degrees Fahrenheit within the first few miles of the surface, but geothermal plants provide just a small fraction of the global electricity supply. That’s largely because they are mostly built where naturally heated water can be easily tapped, like hot springs and geysers. Hot water is pumped to the surface, where it produces steam that powers turbines.

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