Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Potential for geothermal energy in the U.S. could greatly outshine energy from coal

In an effort to increase viability of geothermal energy as a reliable source of renewable and clean energy, Google is providing researchers at Southern Methodist University with funding to map the United States' geothermal potential. The maps, which are available on Google Earth, reveal that 3 million megawatts of energy, 10 times the amount from coal, could be produced through geothermal. Researcher David Blackwell told Energy and Environment News' Julia Pyper that the capabilities to grow geothermal energy sustainably will only improve as energy conservation and exploitation factors are further explored.

Geothermal relies on hot water found in reservoirs deep in the earth's crust along fault lines (mostly in the West) to produce steam that turns turbines and produces energy. After the water is used, it's returned into the earth and reused. The Department of Energy says this method emits little or no greenhouse gases. Pyper reports that geothermal is "one of the most underused sources of homegrown clean energy," saying the U.S. uses only about 2,800 megawatts to power 2.8 million homes.

However, with Google's help, the SMU researchers have mapped temperatures at greater depths than before and have found new areas of potential in the East. Research is now shifting toward enhanced systems that inject water into the ground to heat it. Sites that would support this method are larger than traditional geothermal sites and can support larger power plants, Piper reports. Existing oil and gas wells are being used to explore this method because research about the fluid properties of these wells has already been done and basins were oil and gas are extracted can have fluid reserves at many depths, increasing success of possible geothermal wells. (Read more)

1 comment:

Joven Acosta said...

With the large geothermal potential in the U.S., geothermal energy should soon be a competitive form of energy againts coventional forms of energy such as coal, oil and fossil fuels.
Geothermal is renewable, eco- friendly and sustainable and its utilization should be widely promoted not only in the U.S. but in other countries as well. Second to the U.S., the Philippines already has geothermal energy contributing 17 percent of the total energy mix. Geothermal power plants are being awarded by the government to further develop the industry. The bulusan geothermal plant is only among many geothermal plants to harness geothermal potential to provide a safe, clean and reliable energy for Filipinos.