A new study suggests that geothermal power production could significantly add to the electric power-generating capacity in the United States. The recent U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) assessment finds that geothermal energy has the potential to generate more than 500 gigawatts of electricity for the nation.
The results of this
assessment, the first national geothermal resource estimate in more than 30
years, show that the United States has an estimated 9,057 Megawatts-electric
(MWe) of power generation potential from domestic, conventional, identified
geothermal systems; 30,033 MWe of power generation potential from conventional,
undiscovered geothermal resources; and 517,800 MWe of power generation
potential from unconventional enhanced geothermal systems (EGS)
The results indicate that
full development of the conventional, identified systems alone could expand
geothermal power production by approximately 6,500 MWe, or about 260 percent of
the currently installed geothermal total of more than 2,500 MWe. The resource
estimate for unconventional EGS is more than an order of magnitude larger than
the combined estimates for both identified and undiscovered conventional
geothermal resources, and, if successfully developed, could provide an
installed geothermal electric power-generation capacity equivalent to about
half of the currently installed electric power-generating capacity in the
"The results of this
assessment point to a greater potential for geothermal power production than
previous assessments," says Dirk Kempthorne, U.S. Secretary of the
Interior. "Geothermal energy is not only a renewable resource, but could
significantly contribute to our domestic energy resource base."
Geothermal energy is an
extremely important but underutilized domestic, renewable energy resource. The
nearly 15,000 gigawatt-hours of geothermal power generated in 2005 constituted
25 percent of domestic non-hydroelectric renewable electric power generation (a
little more than 4,055,400 total gigawatt-hours of electricity were produced in
the United States in 2005).
The USGS assessment evaluated
241 identified moderate-temperature (194 degree F to 302 degree F) and
high-temperature (greater than 302 degree F) geothermal systems located on
private and public lands. Geothermal systems located on public lands
closed to development, such as national parks, were not included in this
assessment. Electric-power generation potential also was determined for
several low-temperature (less than 194 degree F) systems in Alaska, where local
conditions make electric power generation feasible. The assessment also
included a provisional estimate of the power-generation potential from the
application of unconventional EGS technology.
To learn more about USGS
National Geothermal Resource efforts, and to see results of the assessment,
please visit http://energy.usgs.gov.