Interactive Map Shows Geothermal Resources
Feb 12, 2013 - energy.gov
Source: Jeff Barnard, AP Environmental Writer
GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — With the click of
a mouse, anyone from geologists to school kids can
now explore geothermal energy potential in Oregon.
The free interactive online map posted recently
by the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries
is part of a U.S. Department of Energy project to
expand the knowledge of geothermal energy potential
"Companies that want to come and explore in
Oregon can access the data as well as you and I," said
Clark Niewendorp, geothermal resource evaluator for
the state geology department.
Geothermal energy taps hot rocks to boil water into
steam to turn electric turbines. Unlike other sources
of renewable energy with a low carbon footprint,
such as solar or wind energy, it runs around the
clock. There are 3.2 gigawatts of geothermal power
connected to the U.S. grid, less than 1 percent of
the grid's capacity. Government estimates put the
potential for new discoveries of conventional geothermal
power at about 30 gigawatts over the next 50 years.
"The low-hanging fruit has all been found in
the United States," said Doug Hollett, program
manager for the U.S. Department of Energy's Geothermal
Technologies Office, which is developing the National
Geothermal Data System.
The system covers 50 states, has information from
more than 1 million wells, and is working toward
including 3 million. The system ultimately will go
far beyond temperature readings to include rock types
and other measures that go into assessments, known
in the oil and gas industry as play fairway analysis,
of a local area's potential to produce commercial-grade
"That goes right to (a geothermal developer's)
bottom line," Hollett said. "If they are
drilling more successful wells, it becomes easier
for them to obtain financing for geothermal projects." The
Oregon map is funded by an $800,000 Department of
Energy stimulus grant, said Niewendorp. The state
has done aerial infrared surveys in Lake and Malheur
counties to look for small variations in surface
temperatures. It is also drilling three test wells — two
in Lake County and one in Malheur County. The data
is all going into the national data system.
The Oregon map is covered with 690 little squares
showing hot and warm springs, color-coded for temperature,
and more than 1,000 little blue triangles showing
wells where temperatures have been recorded. The
points link to more information, including location
and documents on characteristics of the site, such
as water flow, depth, and ownership.
Nevada has a similar interactive map, and other
states are working on them, but Oregon was the first
state to tap the National Geothermal Data System
for its map, said Kim Patten of the Arizona Geological
Survey, which is overseeing the national project,
funded by $22 million in stimulus money.
Maria Richards, coordinator of the Southern Methodist
University Geothermal Lab, said maps like this would
help inform the public about the potential for geothermal
energy where they live.
Ian Warren is chief geologist for U.S. Geothermal,
Inc., which put Oregon's first commercial geothermal
power plant online last November in Malheur County.
He has used the data that went into the map for
years but needed special software to access it. He
says the interactive map makes it possible for anyone
to use it, and to see it in the context of a map,
rather than spreadsheets.
"Definitely, I'll be using it in the future," he
said. "This is the first pass you have to go
through to start thinking about where the next good
place is to find geothermal resources."
Online: Interactive geothermal map of Oregon, http://bit.ly/WjgFwi
Tracking map of data available state by state, http://bit.ly/YpiBBG
National Geothermal Data System, http://www.geothermaldata.org/