The United States may have geothermal resources under its feet capable of producing 10 times the capacity of all coal plants now installed. Want proof? Google it.
A detailed map of geothermal energy potential beneath the U.S. is viewable on Google Earth. It suggests the U.S. could produce approximately three million megawatts of renewable, eco-friendly geothermal energy.
The West has conventionally been the literal hotspot for geothermal energy, and the new map doesn’t change that, but it does reveal parts of the eastern two-thirds of the nation that boil over with energy sources.
For example, West Virginia may have as much renewable geothermal heat energy available to rival its famous (and environmentally infamous) coal supply.
Other areas with geothermal potential are in South Dakota, western Pennsylvania and the rest of the Appalachian trend, northern Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, as well as parts of southeastern Colorado.
The map was created by researchers at Southern Methodist University (SMU), funded by a grant from Google.org. The map was created from nearly 35,000 data points.
“This assessment of geothermal potential will only improve with time,” said Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association, and author of a study documenting the SMU research, in a press release.
“Our study assumes that we tap only a small fraction of the available stored heat in the Earth’s crust, and our capabilities to capture that heat are expected to grow substantially as we improve upon the energy conversion and exploitation factors through technological advances and improved techniques,” said Blackwell.
Blackwell will soon present the research to the Geothermal Resources Council.
Geothermal electricity production uses the heat of the Earth’s interior to generate power, usually by using steam to drive turbines. New technologies are allowing engineers to tap cooler sources of heat or drill deeper and closer to the hot core of the Earth.
1: Hot water reservoir
2: Hot water from the Earth
3: Electrical power generation (with generator)
4: The generated electricity is fed into the network
5: Thereafter the rest of the hot water can still be used for heating purposes
6: Thermal energy can be reused
7: Cold water is fed back to the cycle to be reheated by the Earth
Palinpinon Geothermal power plant in the Philippines. (Wikimedia Commons)
How a Geothermal Power Plant Works. (Wikimedia Commons)