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Geothermal Potential of the Western Pacific Rim

Electricity is one of the outstanding discoveries in human history, and it has significantly contributed to the development of our modern society. Along with rapid population growth and economic development, electricity consumption has increased at even higher rates, and it has led to serious public concern about depletion of fossil fuels. Under the circumstances, renewable energy resources such as wind, hydro, and solar have captured attention as feasible alternatives. Of the various renewable resources, geothermal energy generated from beneath the earth’s surface has been estimated to have remarkable potential for future electricity generation. In particular, the Pacific Rim has an excellent geothermal potential and is known as the ‘Ring of Fire’. This report will reveal current electricity status and geothermal electricity generation capacity along the western Pacific Rim regions includes Eastern Russia, Japan, Eastern China, South Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, and Indonesia. It will further discuss potential and development of geothermal resources in the regions.

Currently, in western Pacific regions, over 50% of electric power generated from thermal, fossil fuel combustion, and approximately 20% to 30% of it comes from nuclear. In addition, hydro is responsible for up to 8% of the share. Although most of the regions have engaged in geothermal resource development, its capacity is not yet significant.

While most regions show moderate progress, the Philippines exhibit remarkable transformation in geothermal resources development. Its geothermal electricity generation reaches 1,909MW, and the capacity is the second largest in the world. The Philippines’ total potential is estimated to be between 2,300MW and 3,700MW. Japan and Indonesia also generate over 500MW of electric power from geothermal. Like the Philippines, these two volcanic archipelagos possess hundreds of prospective geothermal reservoirs. In contrast, the continental Eastern Asia such as Eastern China and South Korea shows limited geothermal potential because they are distant from the Pacific subduction zone.

Geothermal reserves are spread all along the western Pacific Rim region; however, all of these reservoirs may not be exploitable. Numerous considerations such as natural habitats, environmental regulation, and current land use should be taken into account. In spite of these various restrictions, geothermal resources have remarkable advantages that would lead to ideal outcomes:

  1. No climatic influence and inexhaustibility would allow stable supply and efficient development.
  2. Less spatial requirement for facilities would prevent critical environmental destruction.
  3. Little emission of greenhouse gasses would reduce the risk of global climate change.
  4. New development would create new business and job opportunities.

Humans have accomplished significant development, and much of the development has been aided by electricity. Increasing demand for electric power now requires sustainable and environmental-friendly alternative resources for the future. Renewable energy resources, gifts from mother nature, have been considered to be great candidates, and geothermal is one of the most feasible and manageable of all renewable resources. Being located along the dynamic subduction zone, the western Pacific Rim is projected to have remarkable potential of geothermal resources. Considering numerous aspects such as the environment and population, geothermal energy would contribute not only to conserving finite resources but also to stabilizing the electricity supply.

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