Google announced Tuesday that its geothermal power project in Nevada is now operational and powering the company’s data centers.
The geothermal site, located Winnemucca, Nevada, supplies the local grid with 3.5 megawatts of power.
Constructed in partnership with Houston-based clean energy startup Fervo Energy, the project was first initiated in 2021 as part of an effort by Google to use carbon-free energy “on every grid where [they] operate by 2030.”
Referred to in the announcement as enhanced geothermal energy, the project applies next-generation drilling and data-capturing techniques to tap into underground heat, which would be difficult to access with traditional methods. Borrowing technology developed for modern oil and gas drilling, Fervo can drill horizontally to reach geothermal reservoirs, and extract energy with greater efficiency for a lower cost.
“I think it will be big and it will continue to vault geothermal into a lot more prominence than it has been,” Fervo Energy CEO and co-founder Tim Latimer told AP in an interview.
Fervo also broke ground in September on a 400-megawatt geothermal site, located in Beaver County, Utah, and received a $31 million from venture capital firm DCVC just last year.
Google was primarily drawn to geothermal energy because of its strong future potential and ability to generate power 24/7, supplementing more variable clean energy sources such as solar and wind. Alongside Fervo, it announced a partnership with nonprofit InnerSpace in September to help expand geothermal power worldwide.
While the U.S. is a world leader in harnessing geothermal energy, it still only accounts for a fraction of a percent of the nation’s energy needs, and is currently limited to California, Nevada, Utah, Hawaii, Oregon, Idaho and New Mexico. However, a Department of Energy study published in January suggests that geothermal energy could potentially power up to 65 million homes by 2050. Technological advancements such as those pioneered by Fervo also promise to expand the number of viable sites for geothermal power projects.