SMU Geothermal Mapping Project Reveals Large, Green Energy Source in Coal Country

Recent Pages: SMU Geothermal Mapping Project Reveals Large, Green Energy Source in Coal Country
 


SMU Geothermal Mapping Project Reveals Large, Green Energy Source in Coal Country

DALLAS (SMU) — New research produced by Southern Methodist University’s Geothermal Laboratory, funded by a grant from Google.org, suggests that the temperature of the Earth beneath the state of West Virginia is significantly higher than previously estimated and capable of supporting commercial baseload geothermal energy production.

Subsurface temperatures

 This illustration shows subsurface
temperatures at 7.5 kilometers in West Virginia.



Geothermal energy is the use of the Earth’s heat to produce heat and electricity. “Geothermal is an extremely reliable form of energy, and it generates power 24/7, which makes it a baseload source like coal or nuclear,” said David Blackwell, Hamilton Professor of Geophysics and Director of the SMU Geothermal Laboratory.

The SMU Geothermal Laboratory has increased its estimate of West Virginia’s geothermal generation potential to 18,890 megawatts (assuming a conservative 2% thermal recovery rate). The new estimate represents a 75 percent increase over estimates in MIT’s 2006 “The Future of Geothermal Energy” report and exceeds the state’s total current generating capacity, primarily coal based, of 16,350 megawatts.

Researchers from SMU’s Geothermal Laboratory will present a detailed report on the discovery at the 2010 Geothermal Resources Council annual meeting in Sacramento, Oct. 24-27. A summary of the report is available online.

The West Virginia discovery is the result of new detailed mapping and interpretation of temperature data derived from oil, gas, and thermal gradient wells – part of an ongoing project to update the Geothermal Map of North America that Blackwell produced with colleague Maria Richards in 2004. Temperatures below the Earth almost always increase with depth, but the rate of increase (the thermal gradient) varies due to factors such as the thermal properties of the rock formations . . .

Read the complete news release, read the related scientific paper or learn more about the geothermal potential in West Virginia and elsewhere using Google Earth maps.


Reprinted with permission of the SMU Geothermal Laboratory.