Volcanic magma could be power source

Feb. 17, 2011 at 5:21 PM
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DAVIS, Calif., Feb. 17 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists drilling near an Icelandic volcano say hitting magma, molten rock from Earth's core, could point to an alternative source for geothermal power.

The team intended to drill 15,000 feet into the Krafla caldera to test whether very hot water under very high pressure could be used as a source of power when magma flowed into the well at 6,900 feet, ScienceDaily.com reported Thursday.

"Because we drilled into magma, this borehole could now be a really high-quality geothermal well," Peter Schiffmann, professor of geology at the University of California, Davis, said.

The magma well produced dry steam at 750 degrees Fahrenheit, which researchers estimated could generate up to 25 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 25,000 to 30,000 homes, ScienceDaily.com reported Thursday.

A typical geothermal well, harvesting steam from heat found deep in the Earth's crust but not involving magma, produces about 5 to 8 megawatts, the researchers said.

Iceland already gets about one-third of its electricity and almost all of its home heating from geothermal sources, project leader Wilfred Elders, a geology professor at UC Riverside, said.

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