Alta Rock's Enhanced Geothermal Breakthrough in Oregon

After years of bureaucratic and technological hurdles, enhanced geothermal pioneer AltaRock Energy has finally reached a milestone at its demonstration site in Bend, Oregon, near the volcanic Newberry Crater. The startup, which uses proprietary technology to drill deep into the earth and inject cold water at high pressure to fracture hot rock, has successfully stimulated several fractures from a single wellbore. "This has never been done before," AltaRock founder Susan Petty, who has been involved in geothermal exploration since the 70s, told GIGAOM.

The video on the right explains how stimulating multiple "hot spots" from one well can mean more power, more cheaply, and should bring down costs by 50 percent. Like natural gas fracking companies, AltaRock uses monitoring software that reveals the size and location of the fractures by generating real-time, 3D microseismic maps.

Originally backed by venture capitalists, as well as Google, AltaRock received a $21.4 million grant from the Department of Energy to work on the project.

You can follow Alta Rock's progress on their frequently updated blog.

Could this help to create reliable baseload power in the US?

Images: various, Alta Rock