Drilling and clean energy are concepts rarely used together in the same sentence, but when it comes to geothermal energy, drilling is a major part of the process. In Iceland, engineers have created a drill — which goes by the name “Thor” — that has drilled up to a record-breaking depth of 4,659 meters (almost 3 miles). While this drilling project is experimental, it could potentially produce 10 times more energy than conventional fossil fuels.
Geothermal energy comes from the Earth, and since the team is digging in volcanic areas, it’s abundant. These areas, when accessed with a drill like Thor, contain extremely hot (427 degrees C (800 F), pressurized liquids that give off enough steam to turn a turbine, which then generates clean electricity. This project, the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP), is still in its experimental phases, and has been given two years to demonstrate how successful and economically viable it can be.
Iceland currently runs on 100% clean, renewable energy: approximately 25% geothermal and 75% hydroelectric energy. However, while geothermal energy is much more environmentally-friendly than the use of fossil fuels, it is not completely green. According to Martin Norman, a Norwegian sustainable finance specialist for Greenpeace, drilling for geothermal energy is not “completely renewable and without problems. As soon as you start drilling you have issues to it, such as sulphur pollution and CO2 emission and they need to find solutions to deal with it.”
While Iceland is making great progress with renewable energy, there are still improvements that can be made to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, according to The Institute of Economic Studies at the University of Iceland, due to their produced emissions, the country will not be adherent to the Paris climate agreement.
However, while Iceland still has a lot to accomplish in order to lessen their carbon footprint, this type of progress is what will make it possible for us to fight the progression of climate change.