US geothermal energy could replace coal

Researchers led by David Blackwell at SMU’s Geothermal Laboratory set out to update existing maps of the heat beneath our feet, maps that Blackwell says had significant gaps. The researchers doubled the number of locations measured from previous efforts, and by sampling more than 35 000 sites, they found a "technical potential" of almost 3 million megawatts.

A new map of geothermal energy potential released by Southern Methodist University is the result of years of research funded by The map shows that there are enough viable geothermal resources in the US to replace the current coal power capacity ten times over.

Last year, SMU gave us a sneak peak of the research they’ve been doing by releasing a geothermal energy potential map for West Virginia. Surprisingly, the state is a hot spot for geothermal energy recovery, a wonderful development in an area where coal power has dominated for a long time.

The study limited its analysis to the top 6.5 km of the earth’s crust to accurately portray what was actually drillable, recoverable energy. When the researchers applied limits to depth and excluded areas that were inaccessible due to being in large urban areas or national parks, the technical potential versus theoretical potential for geothermal energy production was revealed. The technical potential was about 14 percent of the theoretical potential, yet still enough to crush our current coal power capacity ten times over.