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Google Science

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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  • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @11:23AM (#37845378)

    Preliminary data released from the SMU study in October 2010 revealed the existence of a geothermal resource under the state of West Virginia equivalent to the state’s existing (primarily coal-based) power supply.

    Sure that's not Centralia PA?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centralia,_Pennsylvania [wikipedia.org]

    I have been using Centralia's zip code 17927 for years for places that don't deserve my real address. Back when Radio Shack used to collect demographic information every time someone bought a battery, that sort of thing.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @11:23AM (#37845386)

    Still think the gases are so bad NOW, Sheila?!?!?

  • Neat map and all but I wonder what would the effects would be of us sapping all this heat energy out of the crust of the planet do to tempatures?
    • by RMingin (985478)

      About the same as you throwing a small ice chip into a bonfire. Your incredible lack of scale is ASTOUNDING. If you could magically 'pump' heat from the core to the surface or vice versa, there's enough heat energy in the core to LIQUEFY the surface of the earth for thousands of years. Also, the amount we'd be tapping into is an infinitesimal fraction of what the Earth naturally radiates each day.

      • by Arlet (29997)

        I think it's your own lack of scale that's astounding. There is plenty of heat stored in the earth, but the rock is a very good insulator. Trying to extract too much, and the rock will cool rapidly.

        The average geothermal heat flux on the earth is only 0.1 Watt per square meter. That's only 0.1% of the energy that we get from the sun.

    • by jandrese (485)
      About the same danger of you farting in your apartment might stink up all of New York City.
  • by ibsteve2u (1184603) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @11:36AM (#37845580)
    Anything Google can do in the arena works to benefit all of humanity (admittedly it works to benefit those who are not getting wealthier creating a need for war in the Middle East the most).

    Now if somebody would just put together a project to find more efficient thermalelectric materials so we can take advantage of heat energy represented by the smaller but significant geothermal gradient that is present "everywhere"....

    Gotta love any form of energy which can be tapped by going under existing arable land, buildings, and Ma Nature's ecosystems without a subsequent risk of spilling crap everywhere and pollution through combustion.
  • That giant dark red glob where yellowstone is pretty foreboding... I assume that 90% of the stuff you hear in all of the shows about a mass extinction event following a yellowstone "supervolcano" eruption is just hype to get people to watch, but still.
    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      So then - cool it down by drawing out the geothermal energy from that spot and get electrical energy from it as a side-effect.

      You need to pipe a lot of water to that spot, but you can get a huge amount of steam from it.

      OK, partly a joke, you can't cool it down enough to have a considerable effect on the development of a volcano, but there's a lot of energy to get there.

    • That giant dark red glob where yellowstone is pretty foreboding... I assume that 90% of the stuff you hear in all of the shows about a mass extinction event following a yellowstone "supervolcano" eruption is just hype to get people to watch, but still.

      It's just hype until it happens. There are geological markers indicating a Yellowstone eruption every N million years, fairly regularly for a half dozen cycles or so... we are currently about N * 1.6 million years since the last eruption.

  • by XiaoMing (1574363) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @11:56AM (#37845834)

    Hilarious thing is that over 90% of geothermal energy is generated by the fission of nuclear isotopes anyway. All it does differently is during disposal when the earth just kind of farts it out as Radon into our basements.

  • Just wait for the opponents to raise these issues [wikipedia.org]

  • by LoudMusic (199347) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @12:03PM (#37845928)

    Seriously. Electricity to residential users should be free (up to a consumption level).

    Earlier this year my wife and I visited Grand Coulee Dam [wikipedia.org]. It produces nearly 7GW and costs them rather little in maintenance to operate.

    This weekend we drove through the windmills in eastern Washington [rdaltonphotos.biz] and Oregon. They sit there and turn generating more power than can be transmitted [oregonlive.com], costing little in maintenance to operate.

    And now Google is encouraging ramping up geothermal (which looks like good stuff for Oregon!), and again requires little cost in maintenance.

    Electricity is electricity. The expectation is that when I plug something into an outlet in my house I will get 110v. With the exception of inadequate supply, electricity in any home in the United States should be identical. No one advertises that their electricity is better, so there is no competition in 'who builds a better product'. Is this something the government should take control of, create jobs to build more clean energy production, end-of-life fuel burning generators, and turn electricity into a 'free service'? Residential use up to a certain usage could be free, while overages would incur modest fees. Commercial locations would continue to pay same or even reduced rates to help maintain the facilities. Theoretically this could encourage the move to electricity in other areas currently using other fuel sources, like automobiles. Electric cars are cheaper to operate now, but what if it was FREE?

    Seems like something to think about.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JoeMerchant (803320)

      Seriously. Electricity to residential users should be free (up to a consumption level)... this could encourage the move to electricity in other areas currently using other fuel sources, like automobiles. Electric cars are cheaper to operate now, but what if it was FREE?

      Seems like something to think about.

      I live in Florida. I just spent $9K on a new AC unit because the old one was slightly under-powered and massively inefficient. Our summertime electric bills dropped from $350/month to under $100 a month. If electricity were free, where's my incentive to not just buy a (massively inefficient) $500 wall unit A/C to band-aid my 20 year old central A/C and limp it along for another 10 or 15 years, boosting my electricity consumption by a factor of 3x? (Northern Florida, it does get cold occasionally, during

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Electricity isn't free because those generators, transformers, power lines, etc cost money to build and maintain. You could set up systems where you paid the cost via taxes, or via increased prices from the businesses that now have to cover the cost of your power, but you can't eliminate the cost.

      Plus, you eliminate any incentive to reduce your electricity usage.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Because it costs money to get, money to build lines, money to maintain those lines, and so on..

      Energy is pretty cheap.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @12:15PM (#37846072) Journal

    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)."

    I always wonder about the disconnect in some people's minds between green energy and oil. This won't help us get off oil at all. Very few electrical plants use oil. The oil is mainly used in cars and other forms of transportation, and no cars run on geothermal energy. If you want to get us off oil, you need to develop an electric (hydrogen/biofuel/natural gas) car, not geothermal energy.

    What this CAN do is get us off coal energy, which is a worthy goal. But please show you have at least a basic understanding of energy.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @12:21PM (#37846156) Journal
    I have been here pushing geo-thermal while the solar nut jobs push nothing but that. geo-thermal is by far the best bet to carry us for the next 50 years. We have loads of drilling companies that simply want to sink a hole and make money on it. Well, this is how you do it.
    And as to not replacing gas, oil, give me a break. The bulk of oil used in America is for transportation. Electrics are coming. In a big way. Sadly, Detroit is way behind, rather than leading. To avoid having to bail out these idiots we should be encouraging a new breed of car makers. GM and Ford are dead within 5 years.
    • by Arlet (29997)

      Why do you call them solar nut jobs, when solar energy per square meter is several orders of magnitude more than thermal ?

      • First, we subsidize solar more than any other form of AE (which is still far less than nuke or oil or coal). Solar PV is a joke. It is only useful part of the time. You NEED either storage, or a means of filling it in. However, just about ever solar PV backers screams that it is not a big deal, but they do not want to spend any money on other AEs, while shutting down coal, nuke, etc.

        It is insane to think that solar in our current tech level with PV and storage will replace our current infrastructure. Ye
  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @12:22PM (#37846168) Homepage

    FTFS:

    (especially now that nuclear power has suddenly become disproportionately unpopular)

    There are lots of problems with this phrase:
    1. "especially now" and "suddenly" imply that opposition to nuclear power is something new, rather than something that's had at least rumblings about for over 50 years.
    2. "disproportionately" doesn't describe what you're comparing it to. I'm guessing it's the cost of nuclear power, factoring in the average cost per KwH, the incidence of accidents, and the average cost per accident, but that's little more than a guess.

    So that little editorial comment seems to read:
    "Nuclear power is safe and fantastic, but those environmentalist nutjobs have suddenly convinced everybody to hate it for no good reason."

    The more reasonable comment, if you were going to make any general statement at all, would be something like:
    "Nuclear power seems to be mostly safe, but environmentalists have convinced many people that it's a bad idea because of a few notable accidents."

    Or, you know, you could just leave that out entirely. Knowing where geothermal energy could be a viable source is worth doing regardless of what happens to nuclear power plants.

  • by DerekLyons (302214) <(fairwater) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @12:40PM (#37846412) Homepage

    And the answer to the question "what is our geothermal potential?" is... Not so great really.
     
    You need much better than 150-200C to run turbines efficiently. Much, much better preferably. And the map shows that most of the areas where efficiency is reasonable, the terrain is... much less so. Not to mention in general being far from population centers, which means significant transmission losses. *And* lacking in water for either injection (open cycle plants) or cooling (closed cycle plants).

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