A Map Of The Geothermal Riches In The U.S.

Getting power from ground heat is getting easier and ever. And, thanks to Google, we now know there is way more of it than we previously thought.

Geothermal energy is clean and plentiful, but up until now, it has mostly been restricted in the U.S. to the western part of the country because of the unique geologic qualities of the region. Namely, the ground is a lot hotter there. But advances in geothermal drilling techniques mean that the country is no longer beholden to old ideas about the temperature thresholds of geothermal; we can now make heat from areas where the drills reach temperatures as low 212 degrees Fahrenheit, which opens up areas across the U.S.

This Google Earth map from SMU’s Geothermal Laboratory, funded by a Google.org grant, details the country's geothermal resources based on the availability of advanced drilling techniques. The conclusion: The U.S. can produce over three million megawatts of geothermal energy, or 10 times the capacity of currently installed coal power plants.

The map reveals a number of untapped geothermal resources, including Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, northern Louisiana, South Dakota, and southeastern Colorado. In West Virginia alone, there is a geothermal treasure trove that rivals the state's current coal-based power supply.

Of course, just because we can drill in all these places doesn't mean we should. Geothermal drilling can induce seismicity in some areas—so it's possible that drilling can cause earthquakes.

Regardless of whether drilling poses any real seismic danger, there will probably be plenty of NIMBYs protesting future developments—not that the majority of our other energy-producing technologies are much safer.

[Image: SMU]

Reach Ariel Schwartz via Twitter or email.

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  • Ariel Schwartz

    I'll refer you to this Copyblogger post: http://www.copyblogger.com/gra...
    And this quote from Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage: "Everybody agrees that it's all right to begin a sentence with and, and nearly everybody admits to having been taught at some past time that the practice was wrong."

    It's considered to be perfectly acceptable in informal writing.

  • Hume Vance

    Mark--Get a grip--potentially revolutionary news in re American energy supplies, and this is all you've got? Moreover, you're completely off base, grammatically speaking:

    Professional writers and authors as diverse, and admired, as William
    Shakespeare and Truman Capote have all started sentences with
    conjunctions. (Grammatically, these then become what is known as
    conjuncts). If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for everyone.
    Read more at Suite101: Grammar
    – Starting a Sentence With Or, And or But: Is it Acceptable to Use
    Conjunctions at the Beginning of Sentences? | Suite101.com http://michelle-strozykowski.s... Vance

  • Mark Charters

    You cannot begin a sentence with the word 'and'. The whole point of the word is to link it to something already mentioned, which in the case of a new sentence is impossible. Come on Ariel; sort it out!