While Jim Hansen lobbies states to get newly designed clean burning coal fired generation plants not built, California remains lukewarm still on an opportunity to extract geothermal heat for a variety of locations in California. Nevada on the other hand, is moving forward fast, expecting to quadruple their energy output from geothermal.
Last year while I was surveying Lovelock, NV USHCN station, I happened upon a geothermal plant along Interstate-80. You can see it here on Google Earth. While it doesn’t look like much from the air, you can see the main building and the array of pipes to the wells. i’d been meaning to blog about it, and today was the day.
There is quite a bit of area in the USA that can be exploited for geothermal energy. Most of it in the west.
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Low and moderate temperature geothermal resources are widely distributed throughout the western and central U.S. and can be seen in Figure 1. There are also a few low-temperature geothermal resources that occur in the east.
There has been several major efforts in assessing the potential for low-temperature geothermal resources in the U.S. The first major effort in the 1980’s included 17 states which resulted in geothermal resource maps, prepared by the National Geophysical Data Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), that are still being used today. The latest effort, which included 10 of the 17 original states, was in the early 1990’s, and which resulted mainly in individual digital databases of all known geothermal wells and springs for a total of over 9,000 wells and springs. The 10 states were: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington (Lienau and Ross, 1996).
The low-temperature resource assessment completed in 1990’s included another task. The task was to complete a statewide study of collocated geothermal resources with the only criteria being a collocated community with a resource temperature above 50° C (122°F) and located within 8 km (5 miles) of a community (many of which have <1,000 population). There were 1,723 wells and springs identified with a temperature over 50° C (122°F) with 1,469 of them located within 8 km (5 miles) of a community. There were a total of 271 communities identified within the 10 western states.
The oldest, most versatile and most common use of geothermal energy is direct-use applications; although, most people associate geothermal with power generation. Directuse applications include: greenhouse heating, aquaculture pond and raceway heating, space and district heating, industrial applications such as food processing, and resorts and spas. The fastest growing direct-use applications are for greenhouses and aquaculture, which can be seen in Figure 2.
The reports of the original survey teams and the new information from the additional six states documents a total of 11,775 wells and springs in the databases with the new states producing 2,731 more entries. The number of collocated sites increased to 404 from the previous 271 for the 10 states. The total of wells and springs with a temperature over 50° C (122°F) went from 1723 to 2211, which is an increase of 28%.
There’s a lot of heat out there, I hope it gets more exploration and application. Since California imports a good deal of it’s electric power, and since demand remains high and is expected to increase, this seems like a no-brainer for a business model.