Google is partnering with clean-energy startup Fervo Energy on a small geothermal power project that will help power its Nevada data centers.

Set to begin producing power from 2022, the Fervo site will use Google AI systems to help with its operations.

Geothermal Google
– Google

"Traditional geothermal already provides carbon-free baseload energy to a number of power grids. But because of cost and location constraints, it accounts for a very small percentage of global clean energy production," Google's director of energy Michael Terrell said.

"That’s one reason this new approach is so exciting; by using advanced drilling, fiber-optic sensing, and analytics techniques, next-generation geothermal can unlock an entirely new class of resource."

Google will work with Fervo to develop AI and machine learning to boost the geothermal plant's productivity and make it better at responding to demand.

"Using fiber-optic cables inside wells, Fervo can gather real-time data on flow, temperature, and performance of the geothermal resource," Terrell said. " This data allows Fervo to identify precisely where the best resources exist, making it possible to control flow at various depths."

The initial deployment is pretty small - generating around 5MW of stable power, which pales in comparison to the 100s of megawatts Google's Las Vegas cloud region consumes.

But Google said that it hoped that a successful demonstration could pave the way for more geothermal power, which is less intermittent than solar and wind.

"The US Department of Energy has found that with advancements in policy, technology, and procurement, geothermal energy could provide up to 120 GW of firm, flexible generation capacity in the US by 2050," Terrell said.