The Southern Methodist University (SMU) Geothermal Laboratory has completed a three-year project resulting in an updated Geothermal Map of North America and the conclusion that the U.S.’s geothermal energy potential is a whopping 3 million megawatts (MW). That’s more than 10 times the amount of energy currently produced from coal.
The study was funded by a grant from Google and recently discussed on Google’s Green Blog. The research, preformed by Professor of Geophysics David Blackwell and Geothermal Lab Coordinator Maria Richards, shows areas in the nation capable of supporting large-scale geothermal energy production.
One of the key goals of the assessment was to find non-conventional geothermal resources by region. Areas of particular interest include: Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and northern Louisiana. Areas of South Dakota, Northern Illinois and southeast Colorado and along the Gulf Coast were also mentioned as potential geothermal hot spots.
According to researchers, the estimated energy potential of 3 million MW is only the beginning.”Our study assumes that we tap only a small fraction of the available stored heat in the Earth’s crust, and our capabilities to capture that heat are expected to grow substantially as we improve upon the energy conversion and exploitation factors through technological advances and improved techniques.” Blackwell said in a statement.
Blackwell and Richards first produced the 2004 Geothermal Map of North America using oil and gas industry data from the central U.S. It is said to have played a significant role in a 2006 Future of Geothermal Energy study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy that concluded geothermal energy had the potential to supply a substantial portion of the future U.S. electricity needs, likely at competitive prices and with minimal environmental impact.