Tuesday, February 15, 2011

US Potential for Geothermal Power 32 Million Times Higher than Present!

USGS estimates 500,000 MWe of EGS geothermal resource potential lies beneath the western United States. This is approximately half of the current installed electric power generating capacity in the United States.
EERE PDF Enhanced Geo Basics

The US could be producing 32 million times more geothermal electrical power than it does at present.
The U.S. produces more than 100,000 gigawatt-hours per year of geothermal electricity already, but it could produce as much as 3.2 trillion gigawatt-hours.

...the Earth's heat never stops—meaning a geothermal power plant can produce electricity as regularly as a nuclear power plant can. And it also has nearly no emissions of the greenhouse gases causing climate change. _SciAm

Geothermal power plants are currently located in areas with natural hot springs and geysers, such as this planned 15MW plant in the US state Nevada.
Enhanced geothermal will be a whole new ballgame. That is where the lion's share of geothermal power can be tapped, but it will require expensive deep drilling technology which has not yet been perfected for this purpose. It will also require new forms of ultra-deep fraccing of hot rock, to enhance deep crustal heat exchange for energy extraction.

The hazard of earthquate-triggering is routinely hyped and inflated, as is natural whenever a genuinely revolutionary energy technology is considered. But deep geothermal drilling cannot create new seismic faults where none exist, nor will the technology increase tension on pre-existing faults. Enhanced geothermal can either drill in seismically active -- or seismically inactive regions. In the inactive regions, there is no problem. For seismically active locations, the technology of enhanced geothermal is more likely to prevent large earthquakes, by facilitating smaller tension-relieving quakes.

The potential is certainly there. But the technology and the economics needs to catch up to the potential. That will take time and investment. By transferring all investment away from wasteful and ineffectual wind and solar, over to technologies with solid 24 hour / 365 day baseload potential, society would be taking a big step forward.



Blogger Gumption said...

It would seem to me that this is a no-brainer. Have DOE underwrite each and every loan application for a geothermal plant. Sponsor more R&D. Undertake an Apollo-style program specifically for geo. Use low-temp Rankine cycles.

10:44 PM  
Blogger Gumption said...

Also the earthquakes are real...just ask Calistoga residents. But, there are plenty of areas that are remote enough to where that shouldn't be a big issue.

10:47 PM  
Blogger al fin said...

The Lake County geysers geothermal operations are different from the deep hot rocks enhanced geothermal which may trigger small, pressure-relieving earthquakes.

Natural geysers result from pre-existing hydro-geologic processes. Deep hot rocks geothermal creates its own hydro-geology, so to speak.

Having experienced a few large quakes and many, many, small ones, I can say that I prefer the small quakes all in all. ;-)

I say, lube those pretty babies and make them quake -- a little at a time. (the pretty babies being the myriad and diverse faults) In the short run the locals may hate me, but in the long run they may live longer.

4:14 AM  
Blogger warpmine said...

" The same envirowhackos who attack conventional energy sources also attack their proposed replacements, how about that."

There lies the problem, the DOE is infested with advocates of wind and solar power. We cannot afford to be on the hook for projects that should fund themselves. The state of Nevada should back the loan.

The earthquake subject will naturally be a touch subject to the ignorant just like drilling for gas.

The technology is already there as far as drilling is concerned as they can drill 5+ miles now. The problem that will arise is the water, where you going to get it? In CA, the water has been depleted from the local source and new fresh water has to be pumped in. I assume that you intend to use the local aquifer but it gets used up quickly and there is loss, when the envorowackjobs get "wind" of it, the government will shut down the project.

LFTR's are still the best prospect when you consider all the "spent" fuel just collecting dust.

6:01 AM  

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