When you think of green energy projects, what sort of results do you anticipate?  New energy sources?  Reduced energy costs?  Green jobs? 

What about earthquakes?

Geothermal energy, a widely-touted green energy source, involves drilling miles-deep wells into underground reservoirs in order to tap steam and hot water that can be used for energy applications.  I have previously referenced a geothermal energy project that was shut down by the Swiss government for allegedly causing earthquakes in 2006 and 2007. 

Apparently, the potential for earthquakes triggered by geothermal energy projects is also a concern for the U.S. Department of Energy, as detailed in a December 30 DOE letter: 

"The United States Energy Department, concerned about earthquake risk, will impose new safeguards on geothermal energy projects that drill deep into the Earth’s crust.  The new policy is being instituted after a project in California that used the new technology was shut down by technical problems and encountered community opposition, federal documents indicate.

The project, by Seattle-based AltaRock Energy, would have fractured bedrock and extracted heat by digging more than two miles beneath the surface at a spot called the Geysers, about 100 miles north of San Francisco. The company ran into serious problems with its drilling and faced accusations from scientists and local residents that it had not been forthcoming enough about the earthquake risk. AltaRock denied those accusations."

Most striking to me is that on September 11, 2009, the DOE downplayed the potential for earthquakes caused by the California geothermal project: 

"In a second document dated Sept. 11, 2009, but not previously disclosed, the department concluded that earthquakes that would have been set off by the AltaRock project would ‘not have a significant impact on the human environment.’”

Just another example of how new, green technologies will result in unintended consequences.  How can you extrapolate this example to the green building industry?

Photo Credit:  peripathetic

Related Links:

Green Energy Project Causes Earthquakes? (GBLU)

Geothermal Basics (DOE)

Geothermal Drilling Safeguards Imposed (NYT)