Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that Markus Haering's company had been working with the authorities in Basel, Switzerland to try to convert the heat in deep-seated rocks into electricity, but the project was suspended in 2006 when drilling triggered earthquakes, one of them with a magnitude of 3.4, leading Haering's company to pay out $9M in damages. Haering's team planned to drill a series of holes penetrating up to 3 miles (4.8 km) underground with water being pumped onto rocks with a temperature of more than 195C. Basel's location on top of a fault line – the upper Rhine trench – had been deliberately chosen because the heat was closer to the Earth's surface. A risk assessment has since shown that the prospect of further quakes is too high to continue drilling in the city. Haering faces up to five years in prison if the judge finds he intentionally damaged property. Haering has admitted the 3.4 magnitude earthquake was stronger than he had expected and that his team 'had very little knowledge of seismicity' before starting to drill, but called the quakes 'a learning process for everyone involved.' Despite Haering's trial, the Swiss appetite for geothermal projects has not diminished. Engineers are beginning preliminary drilling in Zurich to see whether that area was suitable for a similar scheme, and St. Gallen, in eastern Switzerland, plans to start work on its own geothermal project next year. Drilling efforts are being closely watched in the US, where the energy department is sponsoring more than 120 geothermal energy projects in several states."
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