18 May 2010

Geothermal-Powered USA: One Step Closer to Reality?

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service have just initiated a public comment period on their draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for geothermal leasing all over the American West, including Alaska.
Here's the impetus for the proposal, from the press release (pdf):
Federal lands in the West and Alaska contain the largest potential geothermal resources in this country.
The draft document proposes to open up 117 million acres of BLM public lands and 75 million acres of National Forest Service lands to geothermal drilling.
Doing so would mean this. By 2015, the lands could host 110 new geothermal plants capable of producing 5,500 megawatts of power, all the while protecting the "special resource values" of the public lands and forests. By 2025, an additional 132 geothermal plants could produce another 6,600 megawatts of power.
(By way of background, total installed geothermal capacity in the US stands at around 3,000 megawatts, 90 percent of which is in California. Under the MIT scenario, 100,000 megawatts of additional new capacity using Enhanced Geothermal Systems is possible by 2050 -- for less than $1 billion spread out over 15 years.)

At the very least, this new push should help to give geothermal power, the nation's biggest untapped energy resource, more of the public and media attention it deserves.

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