Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Utah scientists find massive geothermal hotspot in west desert

30 Sep 2012

Scientists at the Utah Geological Survey say they have found a massive new source of potential geothermal power in Utah's west desert. It is a different type of resource, they say, much deeper than the geothermal industry now uses. But it still should be exploitable.

Over the past two years, crews drilled nine wells in Utah's Black Rock Desert basin south of Delta to test out a theory that water at high temperatures might exist deep beneath the surface that would be hot enough to be turned into steam, which could then be used to generate electricity. They hit pay dirt.

"There is definitely something there, and it is big", said Rick Allis, director of the Utah Geological Survey. The agency has identified an approximately 100 square-mile area within the Black Rock Desert basin it believes could eventually support power plants that could conservatively produce hundreds of MWs of electricity. A MW is enough energy to run the appliances in 750 homes.

Allis said the area is especially attractive for geothermal development because of the existing infrastructure. There is a large coal-fired power plant in the area, a 300 MW wind farm and a major electrical transmission line nearby that could be used to get the power to where it is needed. "Our next step is to get [the geothermal power industry] interested in moving forward to develop this resource", he said.

The Utah Geological Survey plans to tell the industry about its discovery at the annual meeting of the Geothermal Resources Council next week in Reno. Karl Gawell is president of the Geothermal Energy Association, which is part of the council. On Thursday he termed the Utah discovery "exciting" and predicted it would be generating a lot of talk and interest among companies that are developing geothermal resources. "It's exciting for Utah, too, because it could eventually generate a lot of jobs and economic growth".

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