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Iceland To Drill Hole Into Volcano 275

G3ckoG33k writes "BBC reports that Iceland will drill a hole into a volcano so it can tap heat from it, which eventually is hoped to produce commercially available energy. From the article: "Twenty years ago, geologist Gudmundur Omar Friedleifsson had a surprise when he lowered a thermometer down a borehole. 'We melted the thermometer,' he recalls. 'It was set for 380C; but it just melted.'". Excuse me, Gudmundur, but how could that ever have been a 'surprise'..."
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Iceland To Drill Hole Into Volcano

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  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @09:18AM (#15002058) Journal
    Yeah, pretty cool until you find out that there are environmental consequnces to dramatically altering a river basin. Not that the drawbacks always outweigh the benefits, but it's not exactly the "free energy and waterskiing nirvana" that the tour promoters would like you to see. Remember - it's in their financial interest to build hydroelectric plants, there's a conflict of interest.

    Oh, and if anyone wants to decide to build a dam near me, just make sure that you give me the heads up so that I can buy a few thousand acres of future waterfront before the prices go way up. (Hey, for the kind of money we're talking, I'll play the game, too!)
  • by gcranston ( 901577 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @09:25AM (#15002094)
    There's a host of problems with hydroelectric that rarely get talked about. Damming the river slows the water, reducing the size of sediment it can transport. This causes all the sediment from upstream to settle out at the inlet to the dam resevoir, raising the bed level drastically. Changes in the river like this are detrimental to fish and plats in the river, and have also grounded many boats. This is why very few hydroelectric dams have been built in North America and Europe in the past few decades. For these and a host of ethical reasons (like displacing a couple MILLION people), the Three Gorges Dam should never have been built in China.

    I'm not aware of any of these kinds of issues with geothermal (I really do support the idea), but then I don't know that much about the technology. Just pointing out that hydroelectric is far from 'free' when you build dams to do it. The thing is not everyone has something the size of Niagara Falls to generate power from. (Even then , Niagara does not acount for very much of Ontario's total power generation.)
  • Re:Surprise (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Bueller_007 ( 535588 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @09:56AM (#15002265)
    I assume you got your information from a recent South Park episode.

    FYI, nobody was lowered into a volcano. Nuclear bombs were placed into the volcanoes, 75 million people were placed around the edges of the volcanoes,
    and the bombs were subsequently detonated.

    The rest of the story is "correct". The disembodied souls (called thetans) were then sucked up into vacuums and forced into cinemas to watch brain-watching movies.

    So there you go. I guess you could say that my version of the fake truth is more true than your version of the fake truth.
  • by milosoftware ( 654147 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:29AM (#15002487) Homepage
    This is your power plant on a safe distance of a volcano *shows picture of obviously long ago abandoned plant* Questions?

    Simple math.

    People build a plant there because multiplying the chance of total disaster with the cost of such disaster comes out much smaller than the expected revenue.
  • by ottffssent ( 18387 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @11:13AM (#15002848)
    Yeah, Three Gorges has its (major) problems. But to say it should never have been built is a luxury you have because of living in a country fairly well-provisioned for its future energy needs. As these things go.

    China's projecting enormous increased demand, and there's no good way to get the energy.

    They can bet on coal, which China actually has quite a lot of (though not so much on a per-capita basis), but it's something of an environmental disaster even if it's burned cleanly.
    They can bet on nuclear, which presents waste storage problems and relies on finite supplies of fissionable material.
    They can bet on wind (not sure of the viability of that, but I'm sure at least SOMEWHERE in China there's good wind), but it takes up a lot of area and apparently isn't so good for birds.
    They can bet on solar, which is even worse in terms of taking up space, and is expensive, and only works for half the day.
    They can bet on hydroelectric, which displaces people, permanently changes the river, and nukes a whole lot of land. And that enormous lake is going to affect the weather.

    There are other options too, of course. And the best solution is a mix of many different technologies. Etc. But the fact is that there's no good solution. China bit the bullet and picked what they hope is the least-bad choice. It had to be done.
  • Re:Warn Iceland! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thrillseeker ( 518224 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @12:14PM (#15003401)
    The movie was called The Core. And it was an absolute piece of shit.

    I wouldn't give it that many stars.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 27, 2006 @12:27PM (#15003516)
    See steam tables [].

    At 1100 PSI, the boiling point of water is about 291C.
  • by BraksDad ( 963908 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @02:07PM (#15004257)
    I always suspected that Icelanders were boring. Surely it is possible to find a place between the surface and the magma where the temperature is consistantly around the temperature we use in other power plants. We could just pipe water from that depth up to a conventional Steam Generator and create steam in the second loop. This would not require exotic materials or open us up to triggering a volcanic eruption. Beyond this guy being surprised by the water temperature, I don't see anything here that is exotic or unusual. Honestly I am still amazed that we don't use more thermal energy to power the grid... Germany could buy their electricity from Iceland instead of the French who produce it with Nuclear plants across the Rhine from them since they don't want any nukes IN Germany.
  • by Logi ( 2799 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @03:17PM (#15004823) Homepage
    Trouble with extracting geothermal energy is that rock is a pretty good insulator. Once you get the first enthusiastic bout of steam and have cooled a few feet of rock around your pipe, the heat leaches back in very slowly

    Obviously, that's not how it will be done. In the currently operating hydroelectric plants in Iceland, such as at Svartsengi, they constantly pump water into fissures in the ancient lava flow (5000 to 8000 year old around Reykjavik if I remember my high-school geology) to be extracted as steam. The steam is used to drive turbines for electricity and for heat-exchange to heat fresh water (it is quite salty/gritty/full of sulphur at this point) which then is fed to near-by settlements for heating.

    Icelandic apartments will have cold water, hot water and electricity coming to them, all dirt cheap. No gas.

    Finally, the water is dumped into a large lake of industrial waste^W^Wbeautiful blue water [] and that's where we^H^Hthey hoard the tourists [].

    Finally, for some extra geek, we have a description of the computer systems at Svartsengi powerplant [].

Someday somebody has got to decide whether the typewriter is the machine, or the person who operates it.