If they plan on extracting 6GW they'll need to put it somewhere, what's a people hub near Yellowstone? ...
So they'll have to build out high capacity transmission lines which have associated costs for leases, construction, and maintenance.
Then finally you get into the real kicker: cost of transmission. If only 5% of your transmitted energy actually makes it to your buyer, without congestion, you're spending $0.10 / kWh but your buyer is paying $2.00 / kWh where the difference all goes to line losses.
Maybe building data centers nearby is a good way to mitigate the infrastructure problem.
Edit: I also forgot to mention the time value of energy infrastructure. What is the expected time horizon to break even at target rates of return? How do those returns compare to other forms of capital investment? What's the risk profile look like for power producers that require heavy upfront investment? (hint: not good)
Edit: Okay, the 5% figure was out of bounds, more realistic is 97% with proper build-out.
You can put it into aluminum production, for example, though at $0.10/kWh it's going to be an unprofitable business.
> If only 5% of your transmitted energy actually makes it to your buyer, without congestion, you're spending $0.10 / kWh but your buyer is paying $2.00 / kWh where the difference all goes to line losses.
You might get 95% loss if you wrapped your line around the globe, but for practical length of 1000 km, you can get as little as 3% with high voltage DC. Check out the Pacific DC Intertie, which is 50 years old instalation with over 800 miles of conductor spanning from Columbia River to Los Angeles.
I assume 350C isn't hot enough for aluminum which melts around 660C, but maybe there are other industrial processes that could take advantage of the heat. Maybe using the heat to kiln-dry wood or cure autoclaved aerated concrete blocks or something like that.
All practical electricity generation technologies do it through heating water just the same, and they produce hot water as a waste product too. So, if your industrial process can use heat directly, it might as well use waste heat from existing power plants.
Well, usually they run out of excess heating in the winter.
Perhaps, Yellowstone and Iceland ought to have some heavy industry.
Maybe build a massive seawater pipeline and create desalination plants that can then be redirected to California/Nevada
Isn't the typical transmission and distribution loss around 8% in the US? Why would it be 95%?
Haha, I'm picturing the pitch on their risk profile. "Yes, it's built on top of an active volcano. But hey, if it goes off, the entire american economy and a large part of the internet will be gutted. So it's unlikely to be your highest concern."
Assessing such a project would probably drive an actuary insane.
I think it depends on the type of volcano. There's some volcanoes that only go boom, and some that only go ooze, and some that are in the middle. And, IIRC, yellowstone is one that's big-boom or nuthin'. But it's been a while since sophomore geology class.
There is always a way to bleed off pressure relatively safely. There is not always a way to do it without bankrupting your entire economy. I don't even know how those balloon solutions translate to geology, but they feel like they could be expensive--from tens of billions to trillions of dollars.
High voltage + low amperage = high energy transfer efficiency.
According to Wikipedia, PV cells are 0.23/kWh.(1)
Now THAT is interesting! Google is tying up hydroelectric dams with their centers currently, it seems quite feasible that massive geothermal energy could be put to work the same way. Deep-learning applications are seriously energy-hungry and they're going to need exponentially more in the future.
So instead of eradicating humanity by erupting, Yellowstone will eradicate humanity by powering Skynet.
As an aside, I hold a Master's in Geoscience with an emphasis in hydrogeology, and have studied the Yellowstone geothermal system since about 2000. The NASA thought exercise is certainly worth considering in the very long term, and we should aspire to advance technology and our understanding of the associated environmental systems to afford it.
However, more immediately, there has been immense political pressure to allow geothermal energy exploitation outside the national park -- with unknown and poorly understood consequences for the geysers and thermal system inside the park. In 1994, a law that would cease any nearby geothermal drilling if Old Faithful Geyser was disrupted failed to pass in Congress. I worry that this type of article, the original post, is being floated to promote that drilling agenda: a near-term excuse for private industry gains under the guise of saving humanity and at the expense of one of the world's most fantastic landscapes.
- It's not erupting within our lifetimes
- If it were showing signs of actively erupting soon, it would take infeasible amounts of drilling and cooling to prevent
- Therefore, we should make contingency plans for an eruption but no plans to prevent.
This sounds like sheer madness to me. The problem of cooling down Yellowstone is much easier if you spread the task over a few thousand years rather than postpone it until an eruption is imminent. Yet he doesn't even consider such an option, despite the clear upside of thousands of years of extracted geothermal energy.
Things I would add: Yellowstone is in an extremely rural area, so transmission costs and infrastructure would have to be considered in any geothermal project.
Yellowstone the park attracts four million people a year now, making up a significant portion of Wyoming's GDP, and geysers are a big reason for this; mucking with this ecosystem should be done cautiously.
Aside from aesthetics, there are some potentially very valuable insights on life and science that are perhaps possible within a protected geyser ecosystem. To give an example, this thermophilic bacteria's enzyme plays a very important role in PCR DNA amplification, and it was discovered in Yellowstone's Lower Geyser Basin -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermus_aquaticus
The other thing I see is that there are many other volcanic systems out there. So as far as the risk of a supervolcano explosion is concerned, I'm not sure how much reducing one potential VEI8 explosive zone matters from a humanity risk perspective. Taupo actually has had 3 VEI8s in 1 million years compared to just 1 in Yellowstone. The worst VEI8 explosion in the last million years (as far as ejecta) was not Yellowstone, but Lake Toba. Other than Taupo and Yellowstone, most of the other VEI8 explosions seem to be at pretty random locations, so it seems like mitigating all supervolcano risk from drilling projects would be difficult.
One can argue that doing something is better than nothing, but the cost / benefit ratio might be quite a lot better with things explained in the article like seed banks (which would protect from multiple disaster types occurring in any location, not just one volcanic one).
The madness is making unnecesessary world-affecting damage.
I think we (humanity) are sitting at a couple months now, on average. So... room for improvement!
There were numerous signs about the "Krafla fires" in the late 70's & early 80's. http://earthice.hi.is/krafla_fires
The signs in the region very clearly express a possible linkage with early geothermal energy drilling. I want to be gentle with my wording- because I don't recall it exactly, but the writers had little doubt that there was a link between some of boring that was happening the week the eruptions started.
It's been interesting to return home & do google searching on the topic. I can't seem to find any references that authoritatively link the eruptions with the geothermal activity- but it seems like an anecdote worth looking into.
“The most important thing with this is to do no harm,” Wilcox says. “If you drill into the top of the magma chamber and try and cool it from there, this would be very risky. This could make the cap over the magma chamber more brittle and prone to fracture. And you might trigger the release of harmful volatile gases in the magma at the top of the chamber which would otherwise not be released.”
Instead, the idea is to drill in from the supervolcano from the lower sides, starting outside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park, and extracting the heat from the underside of the magma chamber. “This way you’re preventing the heat coming up from below from ever reaching the top of the chamber which is where the real threat arises,” Wilcox says.
You'll notice western Oklahoma is now replete with earthquakes, when they were never there before. From fracturing.
I liken this idea to defusing a bomb with a circular saw- sure, you might chip away at the explosives, reducing the yield when it goes off, but you also might short the detonator out and trigger an eruption.
Luckily, looks like the economics of this are prohibitive and likely to stay that way.
The section of the book about an incubator (the name escapes me) in the US that's coming up with a suite of brilliant, non-intuitive ways to tackle greenhouse gasses and produce green energy (such as the one shown here) are fascinating.
Drilling down and injecting water may cause quake issues and make it more likely to erupt as I'm not sure if they can see if superheated water will seep to the side of the drilled hole(s)?
- tsunamis / tide
- North Korea
Potentially endless sources of disaster energy
Edit: Here is some backup to my claim about messing with the geysers: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/yellowstone-geysers-tr...
2nd Edit: Here is an article about tapping into the geothermal waters around Yellowstone. http://www.nytimes.com/1992/07/17/us/feud-over-geothermal-wa...
A super-volcano won't end life on Earth, but unless some other life-form evolves which can carry life to another planet, we are the only guarantee that life can continue beyond whatever timeline the solar/galactic system has in store for us... which we know definitely means our star exterminates all life on this planet at some point in the future.
Honestly, I don't see we can see ourselves as anything but Life's only hope of continuing.
Sure, we're doing a shitty job right now, we should do better, but honestly, if we fuck up, life will find a way too... that super-volcano is going to erupt and destroy way more species and ecosystem than a couple holes and geothermal plants will. If we can help delay/prevent that, I think it'll be a step toward making up for at least some of the damage we've done.
It is very much like an asteroid in that there are lots of things we can do.
Excerpt from the article:
“When people first considered the idea of defending the Earth from an asteroid impact, they reacted in a similar way to the supervolcano threat,” Wilcox says. “People thought, ‘As puny as we are, how can humans possibly prevent an asteroid from hitting the Earth.’ Well, it turns out if you engineer something which pushes very slightly for a very long time, you can make the asteroid miss the Earth. So the problem turns out to be easier than people think. In both cases it requires the scientific community to invest brain power and you have to start early. But Yellowstone explodes roughly every 600,000 years, and it is about 600,000 years since it last exploded, which should cause us to sit up and take notice.”
I have recently started to evangelize panbioticism and project which seek to seed the solar system/galaxy with terrestrial life.
Even if humans can't become self-sustaining outside of Earth before we get wiped out by something, I believe that we can give our genetic family a chance by sending out clusters of small probes of primitive AI and primitive organisms which can maybe evolve elsewhere. Also by storing a vault of our knowledge and storage for embryos for ourselves and as many diverse species as possible. We could build that and land it on a moon outside of the radius of an expanded sun with a beacon to help it be found.
Any of these things is absolutely feasible and would give life a better shot in the future. Here is Dr. Michael Mautners website for the Society for Life in Space (SOLIS)
We may not be able to save humanity, but we will give life a fighting chance.
Well, we could run a geothermal plant to cool it down and prevent eruption...
> Yellowstone currently leaks about 60-70% of the heat coming up from below into the atmosphere, via water which seeps into the magma chamber through cracks. The remainder builds up inside the magma, enabling it to dissolve more and more volatile gases and surrounding rocks. Once this heat reaches a certain threshold, then an explosive eruption is inevitable.
> But if more of the heat could be extracted, then the supervolcano would never erupt. Nasa estimates that if a 35% increase in heat transfer could be achieved from its magma chamber, Yellowstone would no longer pose a threat. The only question is how?
So, two or three GW of heat loss should be sufficient to keep the magma chamber from heating any further if NASA's estimates are accurate.
> Why we as humans seem to think that life can't possibly continue without us has always boggled my mind.
I'm not sure what you're getting at with this comment. Care to clarify? If you're suggesting that any attempts to prevent an eruption would be too disruptive to the ecosystem, imagine how disruptive 8 ft. of volcanic ash would be if it were to blanket most of the western United States. That's not even mentioning the millions of tons that would end up in the atmosphere for years, blocking out the sun, and killing off a substantial amount of plant and animal life world wide.
First, you need to consider that, in the long run, that thing is going to explode and will certainly destroy a lot of ecosystems around the world.
Second, the only ecosystem that depends on the heat are the archea on the geysers and hot vents. But the heat loss along years would be so small that their ecosystem can endure for a lot more centuries.
Third, it is very hard to find a way to generate so much energy without increasing carbon footprint and generating even more ecosystems destruction.
So sure in the short term (years) no eruption is good. But in the long term there will be poorer soil, or a huge amount of energy/chemicals consumed to keep the soil usable.
It's far from clear that it's better for the ecosystem to stop a volcano (or supervolcano). What's next stopping earthquakes? Keep plates from moving? Stopping erosion? Preventing rivers from migrating?
Mucking with nature to prevent the natural cycle of life has gone pretty poorly so far. Floods are getting worse, rivers are moving faster, coastal cities are losing their marshes, cities on rivers are at a higher risk than ever of flooding.
Check out the updates on Mt Saint Helens area in the post eruption documentary. It's quite vibrant and recovered much faster than scientist expected.
1) Tell humans their suffering doesn't matter.
2) A super-volcano eruption is several orders of magnitude worse than St. Helens, a scale that human history has not seen yet. It would affect the whole planet and wreck ecosystems in the whole planet, far beyond North America. We're talking about likely end of civilization. You don't have logic against that.
As for the comparison to climate change, it's flawed on its face. Climate change wasn't exactly planned. There's a difference between that sort of change and a focused, targeted effort to change a particular element of nature (in this case, cooling a supervolcano) and an unintentional consequence of industrialization.
In any case, any effort to roll back the effects of climate change is going to involve some form of climate engineering. That could include anything from artificial carbon sequestration to a massive solar dust shade at L1 blocking a small fraction of solar radiation to give us the time needed to implement those sequestration systems. Or any number of other proposals. Should we just accept higher temperatures instead, even if we manage to slow or even halt the progression? We muck with nature all the time, and we're going to have to continue to do so in order to protect it.
After all there are many potential causes of food shortages and the risks are getting worse with each year because of additional pollution, global warming, and increased population.
I don't want anyone to die, but does seem short sighted to depend on soil enriched by previous eruptions, then to prevent future ones.
Or, maybe, we could prevent it all from happening in the first place.
I don't understand why you're so stuck on not preventing mass death. Did you not think this through before commenting and now your ego won't let you back down? Or are you just trolling?
It would make for a good story premise for a movie/TV show/video game, but not so much fun to actually live through.
Seems far from sure that a world wide cloud of ash might well do more benefit (better soil, cooler temperatures, helping dead zones in the ocean) than harm.... assuming we plan for it.
It's obviously not about protecting nature from herself, it would be about protecting us from nature.
Never thought of it that way.
Shedding all survival instinct nao
Not arguing in favor of OC; but it's not that they hate humanity so much they wouldn’t want to do everything in our power to preserve it; but instead, they don't love humanity enough to do everything in our power to preserve it. There is a difference.