Google’s latest initiative in geothermal electricity could mark a significant breakthrough for clean energy
Google has revealed that an advanced geothermal project has commenced supplying carbon-free electricity to the Nevada grid, powering Google’s data centers in the region. The successful injection of electrons into the grid, a significant achievement, is a milestone that many emerging energy companies often fail to reach, according to Tim Latimer, CEO and co-founder of Fervo Energy, Google’s geothermal partner in the project, based in Houston.
In an interview, Latimer expressed optimism about the project’s impact, stating that it has the potential to elevate geothermal energy to greater prominence. The International Energy Agency has long identified geothermal as a viable solution to address climate change. In a 2011 roadmap document, the agency projected that geothermal could contribute around 3.5% of global electricity generation annually by 2050, leading to the avoidance of nearly 800 megatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
Despite the potential outlined by the International Energy Agency, significant progress in realizing geothermal’s promise has been limited until now. The recent announcement from Google suggests a potential turning point in this regard.
Fervo Energy is leveraging this initial pilot as a springboard for additional projects aimed at supplying a substantially greater amount of carbon-free electricity to the grid. The company is presently in the final stages of the initial drilling process for a 400-megawatt project located in southwest Utah.
Collaborating since 2021, Google and Fervo Energy joined forces to advance the development of next-generation geothermal power. With the Winnemucca, Nevada site now operational on a commercial scale, its three wells are contributing approximately 3.5 megawatts to the grid.
The energy demand of the data centers surpasses the current geothermal contribution, prompting Google to enter additional agreements for solar and storage solutions. Google operates two sites in Nevada, one in close proximity to Las Vegas and the other near Reno. Michael Terrell, who oversees global decarbonization initiatives at Google, mentioned that the company is exploring the utilization of geothermal energy for other data centers globally, envisioning a diverse portfolio of carbon-free technologies.
Terrell expressed optimism, stating, “We’re really hoping that this could serve as a catalyst for the adoption of much more advanced geothermal power, not only for us but for others around the world.”
In 2020, Google announced its commitment to using carbon-free energy 24/7 at all its operational locations by 2030. Recognizing the potential catalytic role large companies like Google can play in driving clean energy advancements, Michael Terrell, responsible for global decarbonization efforts at Google, highlighted the company’s early support for wind and solar projects that aided in their market development.
Terrell acknowledged that achieving 24/7 carbon-free energy requires more than just wind, solar, and storage. He emphasized the necessity for advanced energy technologies and sees the partnership with Fervo as an opportunity to contribute to the scaling of these technologies.