January 25, 08
Geothermal Potential is 3000x More Than U.S. Consumption

Deep beneath the Cascade Mountains, where molten magma heats the Earth’s crust and occasionally bursts up in volcanic eruptions, lurks an energy source that scientists believe could be tamed to help power the region.

Though there has been little exploration, and no deep test holes have been drilled, the geothermal potential of the Cascades -- which run from Washington state, through Oregon and into northern California -- is starting to attract a buzz. In the next 10 or 15 years, some predict, commercial-size power plants could start generating electricity.

"As this area is predicted to contain vast geothermal resources, development plans for the Cascades are becoming an increasingly frequent topic of conversation," said a report late last year for the Department of Energy.

Behind Iceland, which gets more than 26% of its electricity from geothermal plants, the United States is a world leader in geothermal development, with plants producing more than 3,000 megawatts of electricity. California is No. 1, and resources are being developed in other Western states, such as Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Oregon. Nevada has been dubbed the "Saudi Arabia of geothermal."

A recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found that the amount of geothermal power that could be recovered from deep drilling would represent almost 3,000 times the amount of energy currently consumed in the United States.