Deep Geothermal Can Solve the Need for Baseload Power

The Earth is a tremendous source of power. We’re sitting on a dynamic ball of fire, from which only a few regions have been able to extract energy since the 15th century.

In recent decades, geothermal has been heralded as the most promising clean energy option and also a disappointment for the lack of implementation. Now, groundbreaking technological advancements in deep geothermal have allowed us to unearth the biggest battery on the planet. This approach moves past conventional shallow geothermal heat reservoirs to unlock 10 kilometers (km) or more in depths of internal heat, delivering cost-effective, industrial-grade, clean baseload power capabilities that the world desperately needs today.


Fossil fuels have remained the unchallenged provider of baseload power because many renewable energy options are either too expensive or unreliable. Intermittent renewables such as wind and solar, for instance, offer needed power solutions around the world but face limitations in providing baseload power, which hinders their ability to integrate seamlessly into existing infrastructure. Another option, nuclear power, offers uninterrupted baseload energy but can get burdened by substantial construction timelines and high capital costs. This is where I see deep geothermal come in, to play an important role in the renewable energy mix with the ability to make a big impact on the energy needs of the planet as a whole by being the source of limitless baseload power.

Power Needs Too Big for One Source

Our world runs on the exploration and distribution of industrial-grade power. The global electricity market is estimated at $2.1 trillion, according to Reuters, which includes everything from heating and cooling to transportation. While the Western world has consistent access to reliable energy, it’s out of reach for large swaths of the globe. When you look at what’s required to produce clean energy, currently, the chasm gets wider between the haves and the have-nots. Diversifying how we deliver power is key as the job is too big for a single source.

Igor Kocis

While fossil fuels have traditionally been the go-to for generating industrial-grade baseload power, we should be diversifying our energy sources and investing more in renewable, clean energy. This shift allows us to make the most of existing oil and gas infrastructure in a new manner. For example, forecasts indicate that by 2050, there could be around 6,400 GW of installed power capacity. If half this capacity could provide 3,200 GW of thermal energy and an average of 5 MW of electric power per well, then approximately 640,000 wells would be needed to meet this demand over the next 25 years. Since the oil and gas industry currently drills 50,000 to 70,000 wells annually, reallocating 50% of that capacity to deep geothermal initiatives becomes an evident advantage, opportunity, and necessity.

At the same time, the White House recently shared that $3 trillion in private investments will be made over the next decade to address climate change, with 70% of these investments required to originate from utility and energy companies, clean energy developers, and financing institutions. While that may seem like a big number, it falls far short of the projections that indicate the need for annual investments to be nearly double that forecast, ranging from $4 trillion to $6.9 trillion just to meet the emissions reduction targets outlined in the Paris Agreement. This underscores the urgency and scale of finding clean ways to produce baseload power, and the need for substantial commitments from both the public and private sectors to drive meaningful change.

The pursuit is particularly pressing given the escalating demand for essential minerals like iron, cobalt, nickel, lithium, and rare earth elements. These minerals are critical components for various applications, like battery storage for solar, wind, and electric vehicles, as well as advanced computing systems from the semiconductor industry that include artificial intelligence (AI) and data centers. This is all vital for powering the digital infrastructure underpinning our modern lifestyles.

From facilitating financial transactions and securing national security interests to delivering entertainment, these digital infrastructure systems require industrial-grade power. Data centers, in particular, represent a significant portion of global electricity consumption, estimated to account for up to 3% of the world’s total electricity usage. With the rapid development of AI and the continued expansion of data processing needs, we anticipate that consumption will increase substantially. To put this into perspective, the electricity consumption of current data centers alone surpasses that of Brazil, with only five countries globally consuming more electricity than these facilities.

Deep Geothermal Answers the Call

Deep geothermal was developed to provide resilient infrastructure improvements to the global energy profile moving from megawatts to terawatts. This approach marks a significant departure from conventional energy sources. Enabled by cutting-edge drilling technologies that can reach deep, hot-rock formations, regardless of geographic location and seismic activity, deep geothermal has been able to bring down the cost and risk of accessing industrial-scale energy. Rapid deployment and moderate upfront costs make it a compelling option compared to other renewable alternatives that aren’t compatible with existing fossil fuel infrastructure.

Global leaders are forecasting the value of geothermal. Poland, as an example, projected a substantial value of €10,080 million by 2050. This investment promises significant returns, with geothermal sources positioned to deliver 8.6 MW of thermal energy and 7.6 MW of electric power per project. Fervo Energy, backed by Google and U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) funding, recently commissioned its shallow geothermal Project Red in northern Nevada, aiming to generate 3.5 MW of electricity from a well doublet.

The expansion of the geothermal industry presents considerable employment opportunities as well, with more than 196,000 individuals employed in 2021 according to the International Renewable Energy Agency’s 2021 Annual Review. Many of these workers bring transferable skills and expertise from the oil and gas sector, facilitating a smooth transition. Deep geothermal’s ability to integrate seamlessly into existing infrastructure makes this workforce an economically attractive aspect for corporations with existing assets. These factors underscore the socioeconomic advantages of investing in renewable energy sectors like deep geothermal past the often-discussed and obvious environmental aspects.

Because of this, deep geothermal is emerging as a top contender in the global shift toward renewable, clean energy sources, positioned as a viable alternative on par with nuclear fission despite nuclear sharing high upfront capital, high operating costs, and longer construction timelines. Technological advancements in deep geothermal exploration and extraction are rapidly driving its adoption, with projections from GA Drilling suggesting it could meet up to 50% of the world’s energy demand by 2050, notably led by emerging economies.

This stark rise contrasts with the slower adoption of renewables in developing nations, which have only increased from 8% to 12% over the past two decades, according to UNCTAD (a United Nations group), primarily due to the lack of affordability. These developing nations encompass 83% of the world’s population and will continue to rely on fossil fuels unless efforts are made to introduce more effective options like deep geothermal energy.

Traditionally, drilling technologies have only tapped into a fraction of the Earth’s internal heat at depths of 3 km, yielding temperatures between 100C to 150C, representing less than 3% of the Earth’s geographical potential. However, anticipated technological advancements are positioned to transform access over the next few years, capturing a substantial portion of the Earth’s heat at depths between 5 km and 10 km. This advancement, with temperatures ranging from 150C to more than 300C, is estimated to encompass 12% to more than 70% of the Earth’s thermal geographical potential, catapulting deep geothermal energy into a pivotal role in the global energy landscape.

Safety vs. Security

Ensuring the security of power provision involves distinguishing between safety and security. While all renewable energy sources offer a certain level of safety, not all are equally secure. Safety pertains to protecting individuals and the environment from harm, whereas security encompasses safeguarding assets from nefarious actors, violent attacks, and misappropriated energy use for political gain.

Deep geothermal is a standout option for also addressing security-specific concerns. It is resilient against disruptions in supply chains and volatile market prices dictated by geopolitical events. This spans supply sources and infrastructure, including the unpredictability of the natural gas market exemplified by above-ground infrastructure crossing conflict-laden zones. Geothermal operates mainly in subterranean environments making it less vulnerable to nefarious actors, generally, and offers a more stable and reliable power supply overall.

Attracting Stakeholder Interest

When developing infrastructure projects that will truly improve a region, I believe that we need permissions, political understanding, and both private and public capital. We’re living in an energy crisis at the same time geopolitical events are causing market price fluctuations. If we want our power to be safe, secure, and less reliant on traditional fuel supplies, a consensus has to be paired with skin in the game from both private and public sectors. While we may understand the private investment needs, legislative and governmental initiatives are also critical as the world pivots toward a more diversified and sustainable energy future. These initiatives play a major role in propelling the advancement of deep geothermal energy.

Lucky for us, there’s momentum here. In December 2023, Euractiv reported near-unanimous consent from the EU Parliament, which accelerated its plans to adopt geothermal energy into its strategic plan. Opening this year in the U.S., bipartisan legislation was introduced by Reps. Michelle Steel (R-CA) and Susie Lee (D-NV), aimed at expediting geothermal energy development, received approval from the U.S. Natural Resource Committee. And in mid-February, we saw the DOE announce a $60 million investment from the Biden-Harris administration to support enhanced geothermal systems.

Deep Geothermal Represents Resilient, Safe, and Secure Infrastructure

In light of the urgent need for energy diversification and the transition to clean, renewable sources, deep geothermal answers the call with a resilient infrastructure that is both safe and secure. Deep geothermal brings substantial employment opportunities from the fossil fuel industry, the ability to seamlessly integrate into existing infrastructure, and independence from rare earth metals, making it a durable and versatile energy solution for large-scale applications.

Deep geothermal is safe and secure, making it the solution for clean baseload power. Legislative support, exemplified by recent rare bipartisan legislation for geothermal energy and investment, is a strong barometer for the future of this limitless green energy that has the operations and technological prowess to deliver. Watch for 2024 to be the year geothermal moves past promise and into a leading role for global power.

Igor Kocis is CEO of GA Drilling, a geothermal energy technology company. 

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