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Google Releases Geothermal Potential Map of the US 401

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the cozy-warm-mantle dept.
a_hanso writes "The Google funded Enhanced Geothermal Systems research at the Southern Methodist University has produced a coast-to-coast geothermal potential map of the United States. Having invested over $10 million on geothermal energy, Google seems to believe that it is our best bet at kicking the oil habit (especially now that nuclear power has suddenly become disproportionately unpopular)."
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Google Releases Geothermal Potential Map of the US

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  • Re:Geothermal issues (Score:4, Informative)

    by scharkalvin (72228) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @12:34PM (#37845550) Homepage

    I hope those questions are a joke. Geothermal wells don't go any where deep enough to reach the core. In fact they remain in the mantle, the top layer of the earth. It's only where the core sends a plume of lava close to the surface that geo-thermal is possible. Removing any large amounts of energy from these plumes will make no difference in the core temperature. (about as much change as a fart in a hurricane).
    As for question #2, that is one of the limits to the amount of energy we can use on the surface of this planet, and a limit to growth of the human race.

  • Re:first thanks! (Score:5, Informative)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @01:22PM (#37846164)

    You do realize that we already pipe energy from one side of the country to the other right? The "Long Wires" are for the most part already there. Upgrade, enhancements will be need but the framework is in place.
     

    Actually, we don't. At least not significant amounts.

    The USA is essentially 3 main power grids without much interconnection between them (but it's planned).

    Check out this map:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=110997398 [npr.org]

    (turn off the "proposed" lines to see what the grid looks like today)

  • Re:first thanks! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Rei (128717) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @03:23PM (#37847630) Homepage

    Once again we encounter this silly notion that most power in the US is used for "people" (residential needs). Residential electricity consumption is just over a third of the total US electricity demand. If power is cheaper in some part of the country, heavy industry and high electricity-consumption commercial will move there. That's why we have so many of our aluminum smelters in the Pacific Northwest, feeding off of cheap hydro. It's why aluminum is Iceland's leading export despite there not being a single bauxite mine in the country.

    Furthermore:

    A) There are "hot" areas out east as well -- just not as major or widespread. But you honestly don't need much; the total power potential from EGS is so much greater than the demand.
    B) You don't have to produce from the hottest areas; it just means more well cost per unit power generated to use a cooler area.
    C) Power *can* be shipped cross-country with rather low losses, via HVDC lines. Which are surprisingly affordable; HVDC has a lot of per-terminal cost but a not-unreasonable per-mile cost.

    Lastly:
    "Get away from the Northeast, the West Coast, and Texas".

    In case you didn't notice, the greatest heat potential areas *are* near the west coast.

  • Re:first thanks! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Rei (128717) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @03:36PM (#37847808) Homepage

    Yes, there are idiots. So? Even the Audubon Society supports wind power, so long as you do the (required) bird safety studies and best-practices for bird strike amelioration. Bird turbine deaths are a drop in the bucket compared to most anthropogenic bird death causes, even taking into account its currently limited scale. Our worst are glass windows and the raising of housecats, but everything from habitat destruction to hunting to industrial waste ponds to vehicle strikes kills far more birds than wind turbines. The "wind turbines are bird cuisinarts" notion came from one old, specific wind farm, built in as horrible of a location and manner as possible (Altamont Pass). It was from before the bird strike issue was well known. They built it in the middle of a raptor flyway, using small, low, closely spaced, fast-spinning turbines whose tower structure was inviting for birds to try to perch on. It was a perfect recipe for disaster, and doesn't apply at all to modern wind farms.

    There are some concerns about EGS, mainly about earthquakes; however, the quakes are low-level, and all you're really doing is just accelerating what was going to come naturally. Apart from that, geothermal is about as non-intrusive of a power generation method as you can get -- just a plume of steam rising in the distance. There's even one interesting geothermal approach being pursued out there that eliminates even EGS's problems. Instead of drilling open "wells", then fracking a reservoir, then running water through the reservoir, instead you drill a self-contained water-cooled "heat sink" of thermally-conductive grout. Your water working fluid never touches the rock (only the grout does), so it never takes on corrosive minerals or waste gasses, there's no earthquakes (because there's no fracking), and it works reliably, equally well everywhere in the world with the same heat gradient (instead of just in areas with good potential reservoir rock layers) since you don't have to get water to run through a fracked rock layer in just the right manner (one of the big problems with EGS is that you never really know where your water is going to go once you inject it until you drill the well, frack the rock, cross your fingers and try).

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