With oil prices soaring ever higher, the hunt for alternative energy sources continues apace ...?
With oil prices soaring ever higher, the hunt for alternative energy sources continues apace ... and nowhere more fervently than in the United States. The latest source being researched on a large scale is geothermal power, which harnesses energy generated by hot springs. The geothermal programme already has attracted widespread interest and support from conservationists, power companies and even the United States Administration.
The only geothermal power station actually operating in the US is located about 90 miles (145 km) from San Francisco in California. It's called the Geysers and is the largest station of its kind in the world.
However, the Geysers is not the beginning and the end of the story. American power companies have already begun constructing another four stations, and the quest for geothermal power sites is approaching the fever of the early oil boom days.
The future of geothermal power is uncertain. Estimates of its importance vary. One geological survey claimed geothermal energy could provide three per cent of total US electricity requirements. The Department of the Interior's estimate is one thousand times higher. Yet a third official survey put the figure a thousand times lower. With that vast range of estimates, obviously a lot more work has to be done.
However, there are obvious advantages. Geothermal stations are cheaper and easier to construct. Whereas a conventional plant takes eight years to build, a geothermal station can be completed and operating in three.
All the developmental work on geothermal stations is concentrated along the west coast of the United States ... and that's where scientist Dr. John Russell has developed his personal answer to the energy crisis.
Dr. Russell, who lives near San Diego in California, has developed a solar heat collecting trough, which produces electricity from the sun's rays.
His apparatus consists of 300 stationary mirrors which reflect sunlight, and a heat-collecting tube, which moves back and forth ... literally following the sun.
Dr. Russell says his collector is cheap and easy to build on a large scale ... and generates enough heat to produce electricity. His research has been financed by three American public utilities - Southern California Edison, Utah Power and Light and Arizona Public Services.