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DOE News Release
October 8, 2003

Reuel Smith, 208-526-3733;
Technical Contact:  Bob Neilson, 208-526-8274;

New maps reveal expanded geothermal energy potential

The U.S. Department of Energy today announced the availability of new, first-of-their-kind geothermal resource maps that show low- to moderate- and high-temperature geothermal energy resource locations in 13 Western states. These maps reveal a world of geothermal development opportunities that exist just beneath our feet.

The Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL), with its 30-year history of geothermal research leadership and program management, produced the maps as part of DOE's GeoPowering the West activity, supported by professional geologists and others from each of the states. These resource maps are a starting point for educating individuals, energy professionals, economic development associations and businesses about locating, developing and using potential geothermal energy resources.

The maps have also been consolidated into a Western United States geothermal resources regional map to provide a broader view of regional potential for power and direct-use applications.

With today's technology, public and private investors can expand on the existing use of geothermal energy to help meet increasing energy demands. Further development of the extensive domestic geothermal resources will increase the nation's energy security and diversify its portfolio of energy technologies.

Geothermal working groups, established in several states including Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Washington, have used these maps to generate interest and initiate actions to develop their respective geothermal resources.

Geothermal power plants in use are among the cleanest sources of electrical power available and already are having an impact in some states. On the island of Hawaii, 25 percent of the electrical supply comes from geothermal energy. In northern Nevada, 10 percent of the region's electricity comes from geothermal sources, and its use is expected to increase. And in California, 6 percent of electrical supply comes from geothermal sources.

Geothermal energy also is used in Oregon, Utah and Idaho for power generation and space heating needs. Through these and other direct-use applications, geothermal energy provides about 600 megawatts of heat or roughly enough energy to heat and cool more than 400,000 homes. Presently, this energy is used for agriculture, industrial processing, recreational pools and spas, space heating and in-district heating, for example, where geothermal hot water is used to heat several greenhouses or aquaculture facilities.

Geothermal energy - or heat from the earth - is a clean, reliable and sustainable source of energy. This "heat beneath our feet" in the Western United States comes from underground reservoirs of steam and hot water, and provides electricity and heat for thousands of homes and businesses.

Using Geographical Information System (GIS) technology, the INEEL prepared these maps to show areas with potential for geothermal electricity production and direct use - as well as known geothermal wells and springs, existing geothermal power plants, direct-use applications and land ownership.

GIS technology, using "layers" of digitized spatial information and linking databases, provides great flexibility in manipulating and presenting this information. This improved database allows for improved data visualization and analysis.

The regional geothermal resource map and the maps for each of the 13 Western states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming) are available on the Internet at

In addition to the information contained on the maps, even more detailed and valuable information is available through links from this Web page to other DOE Geothermal Program resources.

As the lead laboratory for the DOE Geothermal Energy Program's geoscience research, the INEEL is focused on characterization and management of geothermal reservoirs. INEEL also coordinates the international geothermal program for DOE as well as both managing and performing research and development activities on many of the other major activities in DOE's Geothermal Program, including the Heat Cycle, Enhanced Geothermal Systems, and Exploration programs. Working closely with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and others, the INEEL ensures availability of nationally recognized geothermal leadership to implement a successful national program.

The INEEL is a science-based, multiprogram national laboratory dedicated to supporting the U.S. Department of Energy's missions in environment, energy, science and national defense. The INEEL is operated for the DOE by Bechtel BWXT Idaho, LLC.



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