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Surprise find taps into magma

In a scientific first, engineers drill into a subterranean pocket of molten rock

SAN FRANCISCO — Engineers drilling a new well at a geothermal site in Hawaii recently struck liquid gold — a mass of molten rock that is giving geologists an unprecedented peek at how magma cools today and insights into how continents might have formed billions of years ago.

The Puna Geothermal Venture, which sits on the slopes of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, has been producing at least 25 megawatts of power since 1993. By taking advantage of the volcano’s immense source of subterranean heat, the facility produces about 20 percent of the power now needed on the Big Island, says William Teplow, a geologist and consultant at U.S. Geothermal Inc. in Boise, Idaho.

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