Dear EarthTalk: Is there any way to harness volcanic energy to meet our electricity and other power needs? -- Antonio Lopez, Chino, CA
The short answer is yes: Heat generated by underground volcanic activity can and has been harnessed for electricity for over 100 years around the world. Utilities can capture the steam from underground water heated by magma and use it to drive the turbines in geothermal power plants to produce significant amounts of electricity. Getting at the sources is not so easy or cheap, though, as it requires drilling into unstable sections of the Earth’s crust and then harnessing the heat energy miles below the surface.