Study Finds Major Geothermal Energy Potential in US



Recently research into the geothermal energy potential within the United States was undertaken by scientists from Southern Methodist University with funding from Google.org. Their report suggests that close to three million megawatts of electricity could be generated using Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) and Low Temperature Hydrothermal (LTH). Arriving at this number required sourcing geothermal data from over 35,000 sites spread across the country. Below is a map of these resources which is compliant with a new global geothermal mapping protocol which is recognized by the International Energy Association and International Geothermal Association.

Map of geothermal energy potential in USA. Image by Google & SMU.

Map of geothermal energy potential in USA. Image by Google & SMU.

Typical geothermal power plants rely on obtaining energy from optimal natural locations where heat, water, and rock permeability will allow sufficient energy extraction to be economical. Enhanced Geothermal Systems alter the geothermal reservoir to produce these optimal conditions through hydraulic stimulation. Essentially cold water is pumped through an injection well at high pressures to increase the reservoir pressure. This produces an increase in shear events that enhance rock permeability resulting in better geothermal resource extraction and making many previously inaccessible locations viable for energy production.

Google’s NPO known as Google.org has awarded grants and invested into geothermal research and technology recently. Potter Drilling has received a $4 million investment for developing technology to break through hard rock making more sites accessible to EGS power plants. AltaRock Energy, Inc received a $6.25 million investment to further develop EGS technology. Southern Methodist University Geothermal Lab was awarded a $489,521 grant to improve assessment of geothermal resources and create an updated Geothermal Map of North America (seen above). Stanford University was awarded $135,000 to research advanced geothermal well concepts. For more information visit Google.org’s EGS page.

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