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Clean Power geothermal_plant

Published on October 8th, 2008 | by Tom Schueneman

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Geothermal Sources Could Add Significant Power Generation Capacity

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October 8th, 2008 by
 

A study released last week from the U.S. Geological Survey reports that geothermal power production could significantly add to electric power generating capacity within the United States.

The first national geothermal assessment done in 30 years by a governmental agency, the report indicates that the U.S. has “identified conventional” sources of geothermal systems that, if fully developed, are capable of generating 9,057 megawatts-electric (MWe). An additional 30,033 MWe of potential power generation is available from “conventional undiscovered” geothermal sources, and 517,800 MWe from unconventional Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) or high temperature, low-permeability resources.

By developing the already known conventional sources, the reports says, geothermal electric power production could expand 260%, adding 6,500MWe to the total of slightly more than 2,500 MWe currently generated.

We’ve heard a lot about drilling for oil offshore and in Alaska as a means to increase our domestic sources of energy, but the clamor for “drill now” has overshadowed the significant contribution geothermal can contribute to our domestic “energy portfolio”.

The full potential of geothermal

In a press release last week Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne said: “The results of this assessment point to a greater potential for geothermal power production than previous assessments.” (In August, the Dept. of Interior held an an auction of lease parcels for geothermal energy resources on federal land in Nevada. The auction was the largest geothermal sale ever, bringing in $28.2 million for 105,211 acres.)

Of the few reports released from non-government agencies on the potential of geothermal power production, one released last year from MIT (pdf) proposed the United States, already the world’s largest producer of geothermal energy, take a much more aggressive approach to harnessing the vast stores of heat energy in the earth’s crust.

“The answer to the world’s energy needs may have been under our feet all this time,” said Jefferson Tester, MIT professor of chemical engineering at the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment.

Currently, the U.S. operates geothermal plants from “high grade geothermal systems” in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. The largest geothermal plant in the world, according to Vancouver-based Western GeoPower, is The Geysers geothermal field in northern California.

Private companies are investing millions of dollars of research money to investigate and develop techniques to expand the potential of geothermal. Among them are companies like Geysir Green Energy and the ubiquitous Google, announcing in August their plan to invest more than $10 million in Enhanced Geothermal Systems while pressuring the federal government to increase funding for geothermal development.

The USGS assessment should help spur development of geothermal energy production as the goal of fully realizing geothermal’s potential becomes an important component in creating the new energy economy.

To learn more about the specifics and full results of the report, visit the USGS Energy Resources and News page.

Photo Credit: iStockPhoto.com

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About the Author

is an online publisher, editor, and freelance writer. He is the founder of GlobalWarmingisReal.com and the History Blog Project, as well as publisher and site director for the HippieMagazine.com. Tom also contributes to numerous environmental blogs, including TriplePundit, Ecopolitology, Sustainablog, and Planetsave.   Tom's work has led him to Europe, Africa, Latin America, Canada, the South Pacific, and across the United States. His home base is San Francisco, California.



  • Pingback: Cool Earth Solar Set to Open Prototype Plant and Change the Shape of Solar Power | TriplePundit

  • Uncle B

    The thing most Americans, with their naturally, and honestly come by, capitalist bent, have trouble with is the “Perpetual” aspect of geo-thermal power! Once the expensive drilling and development is over, the well, geothermal well that is, NEVER runs dry! and that is something to shout about! Perpetual motion – not possible! Perpetual energy – see geothermal, solar, wind, wave, tidal, and geo-chemical! all sustainable, renewable, perpetual investments just waiting for long term investment with stable and mounting ROI! Mean while, Yankee Doodle Dandy sits mourning the demise of the end of the “Cheap Oil Era” and his enslavement to V-8 engines and Saudi / OPEC overlords? Why not rejoice in the new, clean, energy technologies, certainly to be backed by newer cleaner Nuclear technologies and a brighter battery-car future for all! The “American Dream” of the 40′s and 50′s is certainly dead, and McMansions are passe – the “Earthship” style survival oriented home is moving in rapidly. Rejoice! The future is now, with solar, wind, wave, hydro, tidal, and geothermal renewable, of “perpetual” sustainables. A new life-style will certainly follow, and it will be every bit as enjoyable and valuable the world over as the old “American Dream” ever was! Love it or Leave it, America the rising star in the world, transforming itself to a new level!

  • Uncle B

    The thing most Americans, with their naturally, and honestly come by, capitalist bent, have trouble with is the “Perpetual” aspect of geo-thermal power! Once the expensive drilling and development is over, the well, geothermal well that is, NEVER runs dry! and that is something to shout about! Perpetual motion – not possible! Perpetual energy – see geothermal, solar, wind, wave, tidal, and geo-chemical! all sustainable, renewable, perpetual investments just waiting for long term investment with stable and mounting ROI! Mean while, Yankee Doodle Dandy sits mourning the demise of the end of the “Cheap Oil Era” and his enslavement to V-8 engines and Saudi / OPEC overlords? Why not rejoice in the new, clean, energy technologies, certainly to be backed by newer cleaner Nuclear technologies and a brighter battery-car future for all! The “American Dream” of the 40′s and 50′s is certainly dead, and McMansions are passe – the “Earthship” style survival oriented home is moving in rapidly. Rejoice! The future is now, with solar, wind, wave, hydro, tidal, and geothermal renewable, of “perpetual” sustainables. A new life-style will certainly follow, and it will be every bit as enjoyable and valuable the world over as the old “American Dream” ever was! Love it or Leave it, America the rising star in the world, transforming itself to a new level!

  • http://writertotheworld.com Writer to the World

    Terry,

    I didn’t mean to say Iceland “pioneered” geothermal. Just that the entire country uses it. That’s good background though.

    I’m more interested in the part about what affect potentially millions or even billions of holes in the earth’s crust might have on the internal temperature of the core – if any.

  • http://writertotheworld.com Writer to the World

    Terry,

    I didn’t mean to say Iceland “pioneered” geothermal. Just that the entire country uses it. That’s good background though.

    I’m more interested in the part about what affect potentially millions or even billions of holes in the earth’s crust might have on the internal temperature of the core – if any.

  • terry hallinan

    Iceland didn’t pioneer geothermal power. Italy and the U.S. did.

    The first geothermal power was produced at the Lardarello field in Italy over 100 years ago. Later in the 1950′s, the wonderful American geothermal pioneer, B. C. McCabe, brought in the giant Geysers field in northern California. The Geysers is still the world’s largest producer of geothermal power by far even after nearly a half-decade of neglect and abuse.

    Iceland has done well indeed to spread the word on its own development but it was not the pioneer. Like so much else, the U.S. did the spade work but has let others profit from its initial investment while it is now a laggard.

    Best, Terry

  • terry hallinan

    Iceland didn’t pioneer geothermal power. Italy and the U.S. did.

    The first geothermal power was produced at the Lardarello field in Italy over 100 years ago. Later in the 1950′s, the wonderful American geothermal pioneer, B. C. McCabe, brought in the giant Geysers field in northern California. The Geysers is still the world’s largest producer of geothermal power by far even after nearly a half-decade of neglect and abuse.

    Iceland has done well indeed to spread the word on its own development but it was not the pioneer. Like so much else, the U.S. did the spade work but has let others profit from its initial investment while it is now a laggard.

    Best, Terry

  • http://www.cleanerairforcities.blogspot.com WillG

    This is great news! I hope they find some usable geothermal veins in China and India. That would help them to slow down the use of coal plants.

    China is building 2 green cities though, Dongtan and a yet unnamed city. I read about both of them at:

    http://cleanerairforcities.blogspot.com/2008/08/new-green-city-for-china.html

    http://cleanerairforcities.blogspot.com/2008/10/another-green-city-for-china.html

  • http://www.cleanerairforcities.blogspot.com WillG

    This is great news! I hope they find some usable geothermal veins in China and India. That would help them to slow down the use of coal plants.

    China is building 2 green cities though, Dongtan and a yet unnamed city. I read about both of them at:

    http://cleanerairforcities.blogspot.com/2008/08/new-green-city-for-china.html

    http://cleanerairforcities.blogspot.com/2008/10/another-green-city-for-china.html

  • http://www.cleanerairforcities.blogspot.com WillG

    This is great news! I hope they find some usable geothermal veins in China and India. That would help them to slow down the use of coal plants.

    China is building 2 green cities though, Dongtan and a yet unnamed city. I read about both of them at:

    http://cleanerairforcities.blogspot.com/2008/08/new-green-city-for-china.html

    http://cleanerairforcities.blogspot.com/2008/10/another-green-city-for-china.html

  • http://writertotheworld.com Writer to the World

    I think geothermal has enormous potential, and I believe the entire country of Iceland is powered that way.

    I know this might sound silly, but if anyone has an answer to this question or can point me in the right direction, I’d like to research it.

    By tapping the heat of the earth, what potential effect could that have on the earth’s core? If there were billions of these holes all over the crust of the earth, could that potentially cool the earth’s molten core?

    The reason I ask is because it has very large consequences if the answer is “yes” or even “maybe.” If the earth’s core were ever to cool to the point of solidification, life on earth would effectively be over. My concern is that geothermal might be punching holes in the earths insulation shield.

    I know it sounds far fetched, but I have to ask.

  • http://writertotheworld.com Writer to the World

    I think geothermal has enormous potential, and I believe the entire country of Iceland is powered that way.

    I know this might sound silly, but if anyone has an answer to this question or can point me in the right direction, I’d like to research it.

    By tapping the heat of the earth, what potential effect could that have on the earth’s core? If there were billions of these holes all over the crust of the earth, could that potentially cool the earth’s molten core?

    The reason I ask is because it has very large consequences if the answer is “yes” or even “maybe.” If the earth’s core were ever to cool to the point of solidification, life on earth would effectively be over. My concern is that geothermal might be punching holes in the earths insulation shield.

    I know it sounds far fetched, but I have to ask.

  • http://writertotheworld.com Writer to the World

    I think geothermal has enormous potential, and I believe the entire country of Iceland is powered that way.

    I know this might sound silly, but if anyone has an answer to this question or can point me in the right direction, I’d like to research it.

    By tapping the heat of the earth, what potential effect could that have on the earth’s core? If there were billions of these holes all over the crust of the earth, could that potentially cool the earth’s molten core?

    The reason I ask is because it has very large consequences if the answer is “yes” or even “maybe.” If the earth’s core were ever to cool to the point of solidification, life on earth would effectively be over. My concern is that geothermal might be punching holes in the earths insulation shield.

    I know it sounds far fetched, but I have to ask.

  • http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com TheTruth

    Geothermal power is just one way we can offer energy to every human being on the planet for free. Harnessing geothermal power would make power as abundant as water, selling it would not be necessary.

  • http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com TheTruth

    Geothermal power is just one way we can offer energy to every human being on the planet for free. Harnessing geothermal power would make power as abundant as water, selling it would not be necessary.

  • http://www.inl.gov htomfields

    You can find more information about alternative energy programs on the Idaho National Laboratory Web site at:

    https://inlportal.inl.gov/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1676&parentname=CommunityPage&parentid=10&mode=2&in_hi_userid=200&cached=true.

  • http://www.inl.gov htomfields

    You can find more information about alternative energy programs on the Idaho National Laboratory Web site at:

    https://inlportal.inl.gov/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1676&parentname=CommunityPage&parentid=10&mode=2&in_hi_userid=200&cached=true.

  • http://www.inl.gov htomfields

    You can find more information about alternative energy programs on the Idaho National Laboratory Web site at:

    https://inlportal.inl.gov/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1676&parentname=CommunityPage&parentid=10&mode=2&in_hi_userid=200&cached=true.

  • Lizbeth Johnson

    I dunno, I’d be real careful messing withe geo thermal resources.

    Jiff

    http://www.anonymity.at.tc

  • Lizbeth Johnson

    I dunno, I’d be real careful messing withe geo thermal resources.

    Jiff

    http://www.anonymity.at.tc

  • Lizbeth Johnson

    I dunno, I’d be real careful messing withe geo thermal resources.

    Jiff

    http://www.anonymity.at.tc

  • http://thealternativeenergyinvestor.blogspot.com Ray The Money Man

    I read few articles about companies or individuals that are investors in alternative Energy that Google’s name is not mentioned…..Love Google!

  • http://thealternativeenergyinvestor.blogspot.com Ray The Money Man

    I read few articles about companies or individuals that are investors in alternative Energy that Google’s name is not mentioned…..Love Google!

  • http://thealternativeenergyinvestor.blogspot.com Ray The Money Man

    I read few articles about companies or individuals that are investors in alternative Energy that Google’s name is not mentioned…..Love Google!

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