It’s always amazing to me the unexpected consequences that result from apparently benign activities.  As new green building and energy innovations and materials are incorporated into projects, there is always the possibility of an unexpected consequence.

Take for instance a geothermal energy project in California.

Geothermal projects involve mile-or-more-deep wells drilled into underground reservoirs to tap steam and very hot water that can be brought to the surface for use in a variety of applications.  The Department of Energy is investing millions in geothermal projects.  But one of the DOE projects was recently halted:

The project by the company, AltaRock Energy, was the Obama administration’s first major test of geothermal energy as a significant alternative to fossil fuels and the project was being financed with federal Department of Energy money at a site about 100 miles north of San Francisco called the Geysers.

But on Friday, the Energy Department said that AltaRock had given notice this week that “it will not be continuing work at the Geysers” as part of the agency’s geothermal development program.

The timing of the announcement coincides with another project recently shutdown due to earthquake concerns:

“The project’s apparent collapse comes a day after Swiss government officials permanently shut down a similar project in Basel, because of the damaging earthquakes it produced in 2006 and 2007. . . .  [T]he type of geothermal energy explored in Basel and at the Geysers requires fracturing the bedrock then circulating water through the cracks to produce steam. By its nature, fracturing creates earthquakes, though most of them are small.”

This geothermal project highlights the unexpected consequences that can result from new technologies.  As the construction industry pushes forward to locate new sources of renewable energy and energy efficiency savings, contractors must also be mindful of unintended consequences.

Related Links

Geothermal Project in California is Shutdown (NY Times)

Geothermal Basics (DOE)

DOE and Geothermal (DOE)

Photo:  Earthwatcher