While the battle over opening new lands for offshore drilling continues to rage, the Department of the Interior made a bold statement yesterday by unlocking more than 190 million acres of federal lands to be leased for renewable, geothermal power development. These acres, which are contained in 12 different states (all in the western/southwestern parts of the country), are reportedly capable of producing over 5,000 megawatts of power by 2015 and over 12,000 megawatts by 2025, enough to power millions of homes.
Unlike some of more controversial oil drilling sites (such as ANWR), the geothermal legislation is careful to exclude all national parks or designated wilderness areas from geothermal development. Of course, the geothermal developers themselves will also have to meet local environmental standards and regulations.
The profits from the geothermal electricity eventually produced will be split up – half will go to the state hosting the power plant, a quarter to the local county and the last quarter to a federal fund being dedicated to future development of geothermal power.
190 million acres is a lot, especially when you consider a study done at MIT last year, which talked about “enhanced geothermal” potential. They essentially said that it is possible to generate geothermal electricity in parts of the ground once thought not suitable for the job. Unlike traditional systems, which require land with hot subterranean liquids, enhanced geothermal can work in places where the earth beneath is hot, but not necessarily wet – which are far more prevalent. I don’t know if the 5,000/12,000 megawatt estimate takes into account enhanced geothermal potential, but if not – then these newly opened acres may yield far more geothermal power.
Image via orange137's Flickr
written by Fred, July 21, 2009
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