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Quaise Energy is on a mission to prove that deep geothermal drilling could provide more than enough clean energy to meet the world’s needs as we move away from fossil fuels. Matt Houde, cofounder at Quaise Energy, explained its potential at the TEDX Boston Planetary Stewardship Event last week.

The aim of the Boston event, which was timed to run at the same time as COP27 in Egypt, was to “spotlight actionable ideas for human activity to achieve a sustainable relationship with the planet’s natural systems,” according to TEDX Boston’s website.

Deep geothermal’s potential

Houde, a speaker at TEDX Boston, explained why deep geothermal has so much potential:

The total energy content of the heat stored underground exceeds our annual energy demand as a planet by a factor of a billion. So tapping into a fraction of that is more than enough to meet our energy needs for the foreseeable future.

But we can’t yet drill deep enough to unlock that energy. Houde continued:

If we can get to 10 miles down, we can start to find economic temperatures everywhere. And if we go even deeper, we can get to temperatures where water [pumped to the site] becomes supercritical, [a steam-like phase that will allow] a step change improvement in the power production per well and so cheapen the cost of energy.

The deepest hole that’s been drilled to date, the Kola borehole in Russia, is 7.6 miles deep. It took 20 years to complete because conventional equipment like mechanical drill bits break down at those depths.

“And the truth is, we’ll need hundreds if not thousands of Kola boreholes if we want to scale geothermal to the capacity that’s needed,” Houde said. He went on to assert that Quaise:

[I]s developing technology to blast rock with microwaves to potentially drill the deepest holes on Earth. And no, I’m not stealing a plot device from Star Trek. This technology is real and has been proven in [an MIT] lab.

Deep geothermal’s possibility

Houde explained the benefits of deep geothermal energy in general. These include being available 24/7, which “can help balance out the intermittent flows of wind and [solar].” Deep geothermal plants also won’t need much land. Houde illustrated this with an artist’s rendition of a future rig next to truck shipping containers (see main photo).

Houde also said that deep geothermal is “the perfect energy source to take advantage of the largest workforce in the world, the oil and gas industry.” That industry has “11 million jobs in the US alone, and a skill set that is exactly what’s needed for geothermal to rapidly scale.”

Drilling with microwaves

Quaise is working to replace conventional drill bits with millimeter wave energy – cousins to the conventional microwaves we heat up our leftovers with. Those millimeter waves literally melt then vaporize the rock to create ever-deeper holes.

Scientists developed the general technique at MIT over the last 15 years, and proved that millimeter waves could actually drill a hole in basalt. The gyrotron machine that produces the millimeter wave energy has been used for around 70 years in nuclear fusion research.

Quaise’s technique also uses conventional drilling technologies developed by the oil and gas industry. The company will use these to drill down through surface layers – what they were optimized for – to basement rock – which millimeter waves can easily power through.

Houde explained that millimeter waves “are ideal for the hard, hot, crystalline rock deep down that conventional drilling struggles with.” They’re not as efficient in the softer rock closer to the surface, but “those are the same formations that conventional drilling excels at.” That’s why Quaise applies a hybrid approach to the problem.

Challenges remain

There are still several challenges that Quaise has to tackle in order to scale its technology, including a better understanding of rock properties at great depths. Further, Houde said, “we need to advance the supply chain for gyrotrons” and the waveguides that carry their energy downhole. That equipment is currently optimized for specialized one-off projects in fusion research. For deep geothermal applications, they must be produced in quantity and be robust and reliable in a field environment.

There are also engineering challenges that must be addressed. Houde said:

Chief among them is, how do we ensure full removal of the ash [created by the process] and transport that ash up the borehole over long distances?

Progress so far

In the MIT lab, engineers drilled a hole in basalt with a 1:1 aspect ratio – 2 inches deep by 2 inches in diameter. Quaise built upon MIT’s results by scaling up the power density of the microwave beam and the depth of the hole by a factor of 10 to achieve a 10:1 aspect ratio. The company is now building the first field-deployable prototype millimeter-wave drilling rigs.

Houde said:

Our current plan is to drill the first holes in the field in the next few years. And while we continue to advance the technology to drill deeper, we will also explore our first commercial geothermal projects in shallower settings.

Image: Hector Vargas/Quaise Energy


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California-based startup unveils 58 MPH electric jet ski on hydrofoils

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California-based startup unveils 58 MPH electric jet ski on hydrofoils

It’s an exciting time for personal watercraft enthusiasts that want to swap a roaring engine for the instantaneous (and silent) power of electric motors. The latest electric jet ski making a splash is the Valo Hyperfoil.

Technically speaking, it’s not actually a jet ski, nor is it making that much of a splash. “Jet Ski” is a brand name owned by Kawasaki, and the Valo Hyperfoil isn’t really making a splash because it’s actually flying above the waves on hydrofoils.

But whatever you call it and whichever hydro-based pun you shoehorn into an electric watercraft article, the Valo Hyperfoil is certainly an impressive machine.

Unveiled today by California-based startup Boundary Layer Technologies, the Valo Hyperfoil is one of the most advanced personal electric watercraft we’ve ever seen.

Not only is it quite powerful, packing in a 108 hp (80 kW) motor, but it can reach a maximum speed of 50 knots (58 mph or 93 km/h).

And it will do so while flying a full 2 feet (60 cm) above the surface of the water.

As founder and CEO of Boundary Layer Technologies Ed Kearny explained in a statement provided to Electrek:

“Valo will be a complete revolution to personal watercraft. The first Jetski was on the market 50 years ago this year, and it’s time for a major upgrade. Valo will be fast, agile, and tremendously exhilarating, all while being near silent and leaving zero wake. It will be like flying a stunt plane but on water. We see this a completely new form of water based mobility”

The secret to the flying nature of the Valo is its hydrofoils, which function like a set of airplane wings under water.

They lift the watercraft out of the dense water, helping it to save energy by flying through the air. That makes the ride smoother, faster and more efficient. It also means that the Valo can get by with fewer of those heavy and expensive batteries.

The company has spent the last four years developing hydrofoil technology for commercial purposes, such as passenger ferries and container ships. Now the company is hoping to apply that technology to the recreational market with a personal electric watercraft.

As Kearny continued:

“We are passionate about bringing foiling technology and its huge benefits to ships big and small. We simply shifted from ‘big first’, to ‘fast first’.  What we love about Valo is how fast we can get to market. We are bringing all the technology we were developing for massive container ships and ferries and using it to deliver one hell of a recreational product.”

Hydrofoiling boats have been made famous by the Swedish company Candela, who is already building and delivering electric speedboats with impressive hydrofoiling performance. The company is also working on passenger ferries and water taxis for commercial use, but hasn’t shown off a personal electric watercraft like the Valo.

Other companies like Taiga have leveraged their electric snowmobile technology to demonstrate personal electric watercraft. But their planing hulls will have a hard time matching the efficiency of hydrofoils like those displayed on the Valo.

Boundary Layer Technologies expects to have a small number of limited edition Founders Edition Valos by the summer of 2023 Full production vehicles aren’t expected to hit the water before 2024. The anticipated price for the production vehicles is $59,000, though we don’t yet know what price tag those first run Founders Edition vehicles will carry.

Until then, we can at least look at these pretty renders.

valo jet skit

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Quick Charge Podcast: November 30, 2022

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Quick Charge Podcast: November 30, 2022

Listen to a recap of the top stories of the day from Electrek. Quick Charge is available now on Apple PodcastsSpotifyTuneIn and our RSS feed for Overcast and other podcast players.

New episodes of Quick Charge are recorded Monday through Thursday and again on Saturday. Subscribe to our podcast in Apple Podcast or your favorite podcast player to guarantee new episodes are delivered as soon as they’re available.

Stories we discuss in this episode (with links):

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Drop us a line at tips@electrek.co. You can also rate us in Apple Podcasts or recommend us in Overcast to help more people discover the show!

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Hitachi Energy debuts wireless grid tech that prevents wildfires

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Hitachi Energy debuts wireless grid tech that prevents wildfires

Hitachi Energy just launched wireless Spark Prevention Unit indicators that help prevent wildfires by enabling remote monitoring.

According to the US Department of Energy, approximately 10% of wildfire ignitions are sparked by faults on electrical infrastructure or electric equipment failure. Hitachi Energy’s new Wireless SPU Indicators allow utilities to monitor the grid remotely, in real time, with automated visual inspection rounds.

The SPU monitors the current and thermal load of surge arresters – which protect equipment from surges in the power system – installed in wildfire risk areas.

If there’s a thermal overload in the grid, the SPU interrupts the current flow and disconnects the surge arrester, thus preventing any arcing – which is when a circuit becomes overloaded and overheats – sparking, or ejection of hot particles that could potentially start a wildfire.

Hitachi Energy’s new Wireless SPU Indicator

A visual indicator on the SPU lets the utility field crew know that it needs to be replaced. Hundreds of thousands of SPUs installed in some of the world’s most wildfire-prone areas, such as in the United States and Australia, have had a real impact in preventing wildfires. Being able to monitor them remotely is only going to improve wildfire prevention.

Read more: How the US can achieve resilient power grids and support EV deployment

Photo: Pok Rie on Pexels.com


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Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at michelle@9to5mac.com. Check out her personal blog.


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