Earthquakes Hinder Green Energy Plans

Quakes slow geothermal energy, hydropower, and carbon sequestration projects

4 min read
Earthquakes Hinder Green Energy Plans

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The extraordinary earthquake in Japan last month and the terrifying tsunami that followed left the country's electricity infrastructure crippled. But for some green technologies, the worry is not that they will be damaged by earthquakes but that they can cause earthquakes. Measured or anticipated seismic shocks associated with geothermal energy, hydropower, and carbon sequestration are raising questions about the wisdom of energy projects and in some cases stopping them in their tracks.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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