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Google invests $10.25 million in geothermal technology

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(Read caption) Geothermal power plant, Calipatria, Calif.

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Google's philanthropic arm, Google.org, is investing $10.25 million in two companies working on a new way to tap into the heat beneath the earth's surface.

The companies are AltaRock Energy, which gets $6.25 million, and Porter Drilling, which gets $4 million. Additionally, the Geothermal Laboratory at Southern Methodist University, which is working on locating geothermal sources in North America, will receive a grant of about $490,000.

The money comes from Google's RE<C initiative, which seeks to develop renewable energy sources that are cheaper than electricity produced from coal.

Unlike the traditional geothermal systems that have been providing power for more than a century, the technology that Google is investing in does not require naturally occurring geysers or hot springs. An "enhanced geothermal system" works by injecting water into hot rocks deep in the earth's crust, and then bringing the steam back up to power turbines.

According to the US Department of Energy, EGS could increase the potential of geothermal energy by a factor of 40.

Here's a video from Google.org explaining how it works:

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