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Why is geothermal energy the Rodney Dangerfield of renewables?

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A few headlines about geothermal energy have caught our attention recently and leave us wondering why there isn't more discussion about the potential for this clean, renewable energy source.

 

Salt River Project (SRP), for instance, signed a second agreement for the purchase of 49 megawatts of geothermal energy from a plant that will be built in Southern California. And BusinessWeek reports that a new geothermal power plant is expected to come online in southern New Mexico in 2013.

 

As SRP explains it, "a geothermal power plant produces electricity from naturally occurring geothermal steam. The steam is formed when production wells tap into superheated water reservoirs thousands of feet beneath the Earth's surface. Unlike other forms of renewable energy such as solar or wind, geothermal power plants produce energy continuously, irrespective of the time of the day or weather conditions."

 

California, with 48 operating geothermal power plants and approximately 2,500 MW of installed geothermal capacity, is No. 1 in United States’ geothermal generation, according to the Geothermal Energy Association.

 

Yet based on a thermal map created by Southern Methodist University, the U.S. houses more than 2,980,295 megawatts of geothermal energy that could be harnessed using enhanced geothermal services (EGS) and other advanced geothermal technologies.

 

Also interesting was a report from The Washington Post about Chinese scientists looking into refitting the shafts of old oil and gas wells with a "pipe within a pipe" design that would circulate water and turn the wells into geothermal power generators.

 

So what do you think? Should we be paying more attention to geothermal energy? Why or why not? Click to join the discussion >>