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Google Releases Geothermal Potential Map of the US

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the cozy-warm-mantle dept.

Google 401

a_hanso writes "The Google funded Enhanced Geothermal Systems research at the Southern Methodist University has produced a coast-to-coast geothermal potential map of the United States. Having invested over $10 million on geothermal energy, Google seems to believe that it is our best bet at kicking the oil habit (especially now that nuclear power has suddenly become disproportionately unpopular)."

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I got... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845350)

first post... powered by Geothermal Energy!!!

first thanks! (3)

djfuq (1151563) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845356)

Thank you Google -- I wish that the country as a whole was making this happen. We banded together for WWII why not do it immediately for humanity and the planet's survival?

Re:first thanks! (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845376)

because we won't be using geothermal energy to kill people from other countries?

Maybe if we decided on a geothermal laser. I'm thinking of the mining laser from star craft 2, but geothermal...

Re:first thanks! (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845470)

Because you need some LOOOOOOOOONG wires to get from all that dark color in the west to the population centers in the east. Might be feasible for CA, though.

Re:first thanks! (2)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845696)

You do realize that people are in fact living, and thriving, out here in these dark colors, don't you?

Wait... never mind. I've said too much already.

Re:first thanks! (1)

Aryden (1872756) | more than 2 years ago | (#37846008)

You do realize that we already pipe energy from one side of the country to the other right? The "Long Wires" are for the most part already there. Upgrade, enhancements will be need but the framework is in place.

The real question I have is, that 2.98M megawatts being pumped out, is that weekly, monthly, yearly, in total or what? And how much of our national energy consumption does that actually take care of?

Re:first thanks! (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 2 years ago | (#37846064)

There's also some red in Texas/Arkansas/Louisiana and West Virginia. Not as much as out west, true, but probably enough to be useful.

Re:first thanks! (2)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845584)

There's money in weapons and killing people. (Google "Military Industrial Complex") There's a definite loss of money when it comes to the care and feeding of humanity or of the planet. Geothermal is too close to being "free energy" for most to consider.

Also, for every clean energy source, there will be some asshat that will come along to protest it. Most notably, I recall a story about wind farming being protested because it kills birds. So okay, burning stuff is out. Wind is out. Solar is out because it takes too much room and is too ugly and not to mention how inefficient it is. Nuclear is out because people are scared of it. What's left? Ocean currents? Oh no... that'd somehow imbalance the ocean's eco-system, kill whales or mermaids. How about beaming energy in from space in the form of microwaves? Yeah... no... that's a huge death ray and would probably cause serious problems for people who enjoy popcorn.

Okay, I'm out of ideas.

Re:first thanks! (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845596)

why not do it immediately for humanity and the planet's survival?

Increasing our available sources of energy and thus allowing for even more uncontrolled growth and overpopulation is not ensuring the planet's survival but rather its destruction.

Re:first thanks! (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845662)

Your assuming that any significant amount of people are actually controlling their reproduction based on the world's remaining resources.

Re:first thanks! (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845844)

Not consciously; but wealth is suprisingly reliable at lowering fertility rates(shockingly, constant breeding is apparently not actually what people want) and poverty is less surprisingly reliable at raising mortality rates...

Re:first thanks! (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845900)

I thought that the current activist meme was that wealth was a bad thing...

These change so often over the years. I have trouble keeping up with them.

It's a bit like tropical oils as opposed to hydrogenated. They were ok, then evil, now they're ok again. *shrug*

Re:first thanks! (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845858)

Not currently, but they will when they no longer have a choice.

Re:first thanks! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845930)

If all Malthusians just committed mass suicide, the overpopulation problem would disappear overnight.

Re:first thanks! (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37846012)

Yeah, better to stick your head in the sand and pretend that reality and arithmetic is not real, right?

Re:first thanks! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845820)

Probably because it would be hard to do, with all the creepers spawning under ground, and blowing up all your work.

Re:first thanks! (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845886)

I second that. Thank you Google. I wish more companies would work for society's benefit instead of solely next quarter's share price.

Centralia PA (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845378)

Preliminary data released from the SMU study in October 2010 revealed the existence of a geothermal resource under the state of West Virginia equivalent to the state’s existing (primarily coal-based) power supply.

Sure that's not Centralia PA?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centralia,_Pennsylvania [wikipedia.org]

I have been using Centralia's zip code 17927 for years for places that don't deserve my real address. Back when Radio Shack used to collect demographic information every time someone bought a battery, that sort of thing.

Re:Centralia PA (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845428)

It's not. The WV hot spot was found by oil and gas drilling and is about 5km down.

Re:Centralia PA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845456)

Back when Radio Shack used to collect demographic information every time someone bought a battery, that sort of thing.

They still did in 2008, at least; they wouldn't let me buy the batteries without giving my info, so they lost the sale.

Re:Centralia PA (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845636)

987 Fakey Way
Schenectady, NY 12345

There are hoards of businesses that have this address for a Mr. Rusty Shackleford, and I can still buy batteries anonymously.

Re:Centralia PA (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845736)

I go one better - I give them FALSE info. There's nothing like data corruption to come and bite you in the ass in 15 years.

And they said I was crazy to live on a volcano rim (2)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845386)

Still think the gases are so bad NOW, Sheila?!?!?

Re:And they said I was crazy to live on a volcano (2)

muon-catalyzed (2483394) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845948)

> Still think the gases are so bad

These radioactive "gases" like Radon are indeed worse, are you lucky and out of the 'zone'?

USGS Radon map

http://energy.cr.usgs.gov/radon/rnus.html [usgs.gov]

Drill baby drill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845394)

All over again...

Re:Drill baby drill (2)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845484)

the nice thing about geothermal: you're not actual bringing stuff up out of the ground. just heat. similar to sinking a well. local environment *can* me minimally impacted if done right.

Re:Drill baby drill (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845628)

realizing the map was taken at 6.5km deep, I guess its not the same as an oil well. average oil well depths are 4000-6000ft, or about 2km. So you'd have to go pretty deep for these, maybe not too similar to sinking a well.

Thorium (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845430)

Here's a link to a Google tech talk about Thorium, an often overlooked option we have. I consider it to be one of our best options to fuel the world. See what you think.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZR0UKxNPh8

Re:Thorium (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845478)

Ya but just wait till the Thorium starts building a web.

Geothermal issues (0)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845436)

I've always had two issues with articles on geothermal

1. What happens to the core when we start pumping large amounts of heat out of the core? How long until it cools enough for our magnetic field to collapse enough to be dangerous?

2. What happens to the atmosphere when we pump all that heat from the core into it? How long until the oceans boil?

Seems like very important questions to me...

Re:Geothermal issues (4, Funny)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845520)

Probably about the same time all those wind farms start blowing Earth off it's orbit [theonion.com] .

Re:Geothermal issues (1)

muon-catalyzed (2483394) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845998)

LOL! yeah, and the ISS is causing all the hurricane storms of late

Re:Geothermal issues (2)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845524)

1: who knows.

2: right now, we'd be talking about substitutional energy. people will use geothermal heat where they'd normally use combustion derived heat. so, unless this enables increases in energy use beyond current expected rates of energy use, the net heat to the environment shouldn't be significantly different. of course, when people have their own private free energy source, I guess they'll use more energy. So there is that.

Re:Geothermal issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845542)

2. What happens to the atmosphere when we pump all that heat from the core into it? How long until the oceans boil?
Aren't we already doing that by pumping/digging out oil/coal and erm... burning it?

But you do raise a valid point, how much heat can we sap before it becomes a problem? (or is the cooling effect on the earth's core negligible?)

Re:Geothermal issues (3, Informative)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845550)

I hope those questions are a joke. Geothermal wells don't go any where deep enough to reach the core. In fact they remain in the mantle, the top layer of the earth. It's only where the core sends a plume of lava close to the surface that geo-thermal is possible. Removing any large amounts of energy from these plumes will make no difference in the core temperature. (about as much change as a fart in a hurricane).
As for question #2, that is one of the limits to the amount of energy we can use on the surface of this planet, and a limit to growth of the human race.

Re:Geothermal issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845646)

From what I understand, geothermal wells remain in the earth's crust, the outer layer above the upper mantle. Your overall explanation seems otherwise correct if you simply substitute crust for mantle.

Re:Geothermal issues (1)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845726)

I know it only stays in the crust; but the heat from the core will eventually migrate out of the core, into the mantle, then into our geothermal pumps grasp.

Re:Geothermal issues (3, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845906)

Wait, this question was serious? The heat from the mantle will eventually migrate upwards anyways. And turning it into electricity won't introduce more heat into our atmosphere than we already are from burning coal/ natural gas. Considerably less so, especially without any CO2 production.

Geothermal can last a long, long time. Although I should point out that scharkalvin is wrong (about this one): Google's EGS plan doesn't use geothermal plumes like most geothermal power does, it just uses the Earth's natural heat at about 6.5km down (which occurs everywhere to various degrees.) Hence, the gradient map.

Oh, and lest we forget, sun unleashes something like 1*10^17 joules of energy on the Earth per second. It would take an absolute shitload of geothermal stations, probably more than we could ever effectively build, to add any considerable amount to that.

Re:Geothermal issues (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845954)

"Eventually" means "millions of years".

It might be possible to tap out a geothermal well, cooling it down faster than the local heat sources can put more heat in. But the effect will be limited to the top crust, not even reaching the bottom crust, much less the mantle or the core.

Yes, in a technical sense it will eventually affect those things, too, but not in any way you'd be able to measure for millions of years. If we find a way to take out energy faster than that, everything in technology will change anyway.

Re:Geothermal issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845814)

The emissions from my big fat hummer are a fart in a hurricane too, so I'll just keep on truckin'...

Re:Geothermal issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845552)

We don't pump the heat out of the core, nor from the mantle, but from crust. Considering the scales involved, I wouldn't worry.

Re:Geothermal issues (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845594)

1. core is VERY VERY deep, not 6km, try 6000km
2. it is believed the core of the planet is run on uranium :P
3. no one knows exactly what causes magnetic field to exist as it does - some say iron core, others say water, etc.
4. question #2, well, -_-

Geothermal energy rises through the surface @ 1W/m2. Solar energy falls on the planet @ 1000W/m2 (more or less). Geothermal is much more reliable source of energy.

Anyway, large scale geothermal will not work. Pumping large amount of heat involves pumping large amount of water. Geothermal can be considered mostly like oil - if you pump it fast enough, your hot spot will become a cold spot. Large scale extraction will also bring about its own problems, like geological instability as thermal stresses move the ground around a bit.

Geothermal assisted heating and cooling for houses is a great idea though, especially if you live out in the sticks or close to large bodies of water. But for power generation, like 10GWe plant, well, not realistic.

Re:Geothermal issues (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845600)

1. hahaha, any idea how much heat you are talking about?
2. hahaha, any idea how much heat you are talking about?

Re:Geothermal issues (1)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845746)

I never said it would be instantaneous. However, if we are looking for long-term solutions, a couple thousand years should be considered in my opinion. (Though, personally, I don't think the human race will survive another couple hundred, but that's another debate.)

Re:Geothermal issues (2)

Anonymus (2267354) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845910)

If we don't figure out an energy solution better than geothermal in "a couple thousand years" I don't think we deserve to survive.

Re:Geothermal issues (1)

IDarkISwordI (811835) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845604)

Well geologists theorize that the Earth maintains iits liquid interior due to fusion in it's core, which is roughly the size of Mercury. The chance that humans could impact such a large object in an way, is pretty slim. A lot of heat escapes naturally anyway in the form of volcanic eruptions. As for the heat being pumped into the atmosphere, it won't happen. Power stations have cooling towers where the waste steam condenses back to water form and is cleaned and reused.

Really geothermal plants operate just as any other heat driven plants do, by directing super heated water through turbines. The benefit is that you don't have to burn anything to get the steam so it's practically no pollution.

Re:Geothermal issues (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845838)

Fission, not fusion.

Re:Geothermal issues (3, Insightful)

MikeyC01 (231948) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845888)

The chance that humans could impact such a large object in an way, is pretty slim.

This argument sounds familiar for some reason ...

Re:Geothermal issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845608)

Point 2 is a non-issue because heat radiates to space.

Point 1 worries me, but not because of the magnetic field. The could be other problems...

Re:Geothermal issues (1)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845614)

I know the latter will eventually happen by burning fossil fuels, too. However, if we have more energy available, we might accelerate it. Would using solar negate that as the heat from the sun would get here regardless? I don't know. The former would also happen eventually but how much faster would wecause it by using millions of megawatts of geothermal a year? Anyway, some maths to back up our completely-fucked-ness (or un-fucked-ness) would be nice.

Re:Geothermal issues (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845774)

I know the latter will eventually happen by burning fossil fuels, too.

No it won't. If we burn fossil fuels at today's rate, there are only 30-odd years of fossil fuels left. Even less if our energy needs keep expanding. What you expected it to last forever?

Re:Geothermal issues (1, Interesting)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845818)

Damn, you're all semantic crazy-people. Burning fossil fuels + fission + fusion + burning baby tears. I'm more asking that if we COULD replace all our current energy sources with geothermal, what is the net outcome either a net gain or loss of excess heat into the atmosphere and from the stuff beneath our feet (core + mantle + crust)

Re:Geothermal issues (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845958)

The greenhouse effect dwarfs any direct changes we could make in generating heat. So, if we could replace burning fossil fuels with geothermal, we would slow down the global warming due to CO2 greenhouse effect.

Re:Geothermal issues (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37846034)

It's not as bad as fossil fuels for 2 reasons: (a) some of that heat would already be entering the biosphere (and we are just using it for useful work now), and (2) greenhouse gas effects massively dominate direct thermal output of any of our power generating methods (and geothermal shouldn't release any such gases).

However, it is not as good as solar (which doesn't introduce any new heat or greenhouse gases).

On a side note, the core produces something on the order of a few terawatts of energy. Human consumption is on the order of ~15 terawatts. You are right that we cannot expect geothermal to give us everything we need, but a few hundred relatively shallow wells can't have much effect on overall core temperature. If we started talking thousands, or very deep wells then we might have a problem. But not for a while.

Re:Geothermal issues (1)

kenboldt (1071456) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845624)

I've always had two issues with articles on geothermal

1. What happens to the core when we start pumping large amounts of heat out of the core? How long until it cools enough for our magnetic field to collapse enough to be dangerous?

2. What happens to the atmosphere when we pump all that heat from the core into it? How long until the oceans boil?

Seems like very important questions to me...

Please, for the love of deity, tell me you are joking... geothermal wells are, at most, about 3 km deep. Estimates for the deepest are about 10 km, and that would be terribly, and likely, cost prohibitive.

The earth's OUTER core is 2890 km deep, and the inner core is 5150 km deep. We won't be pumping any heat our of the core, and we certainly won't be pumping enough out to cool it enough for our magnetic field to collapse, unless of course you are in possession of some fantastic new drilling technology that the world has yet not discovered.

Re:Geothermal issues (1)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845778)

If we pump heat out faster than it escapes naturally (even from the crust, the heat from the core WILL migrate out and cooling the crust will accelerate the heat transfer from the mantle and, in turn, the crust) there will be consequences. Will it be hundreds of years, thousands, millions? That's all I want to know.

Re:Geothermal issues (2)

kenboldt (1071456) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845878)

I guarantee that many many many many many many generations from now, the kids of the kids of the people of that time will not have to worry about it.

I think you need to get a grip on scale.

Re:Geothermal issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845632)

I agree, I'm not a geologist or a physicist or whatever type of ist you need to be to be an expert on these sorts of things, but I have had enough physics to know that when you take heat energy away from a source and transfer it to another place, the source gets colder unless there is some other force of energy feeding the source. So how long is geothermal sustainable under high demand? Also how is messing with the "climate" in and under the Earth's crust any better than messing with the climate above Earth's crust? How long before the environmental wackos start to panic about GeoCooling?

Re:Geothermal issues (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845724)

It is already leaking out. What do you think those sea floor vents are?

Nuclear reactions are one big source of heat that deep. The scale we are talking at all of humanities energy usage would be a rounding error.

Re:Geothermal issues (1)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845786)

I just want to see someone do the math and prove it.

Re:Geothermal issues (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845942)

Already done, a poster further up showed how much heat we lose to space vs human energy usage.

Re:Geothermal issues (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845806)

#2: that's already happening. Heat from the core is constantly diffusing into the crust and then the atmosphere. Even with our best efforts, we're not going to change the rate at which that happens by a measurable amount.

This heat is only a small fraction of the heat we get from above, so no worries.

Re:Geothermal issues (2)

kikito (971480) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845810)

1. The decrease in temperature will contract the core, leaving big caves beneath the crust. All volcanoes will cease activity. Then the dinosaurs will be able to climb up through them and invade us.
2. We'll move inside the giant subterranean caves, which were inhabited by the dinosaurs. We'll sell all their treasures and be rich.

Re:Geothermal issues (1)

chronoglass (1353185) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845826)

my only worry is the problems I've heard about earthquakes near these things.. i mean sure.. you can power a city, but if it falls over every 2 years because of the increase in activity.. then what?

Re:Geothermal issues (2)

dr_leviathan (653441) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845846)

The amount of heat leaking out of the core already is MUCH larger than anything added by geothermal power plants, by several orders of magnitude. The surface area of the Earth is huge, which means its thermodynamic coupling to the atmosphere and oceans proportionally high. When you compute the thermal output of a single lava volcano should find that it dwarfs the sum of all deployed geothermal power plants and probably our worldwide energy needs. All of this heat eventually leaks into the atmosphere already except that part that radiates directly into space through the air.

Some geothermal plant designs do have problems. For example, those that tap directly into hot water and release it as steam can introduce some poisons (arsenic, acids, salts) from underground that build up in the nearby topsoil, which will kill local plants and produce a small "toxic" dump. However, there are other designs that could use a temperature gradient to run a thermodynamic engine, such as the SustainX compressed air energy storage idea:

http://ecogeek.org/component/content/article/3620 [ecogeek.org]

While that is mostly for storing energy, if there were a sufficiently steep temperature gradient (boiling hot ground to ice cold water) then such a storage engine could exceed 100% "efficiency" and produce positive power without leaking any undrground water into the environment.

Re:Geothermal issues (3, Insightful)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845854)

1. What happens to the core when we start pumping large amounts of heat out of the core? How long until it cools enough for our magnetic field to collapse enough to be dangerous?

Here's a fascinating thought experiment that might interest you: What is cold weather?

It's so easy to say that cold weather is the movement of cold air, but that's wrong. "Cold" is not a force or some sort of negative energy that gets applied during winter. Cold is what happens when, if even for a moment, we stop getting enough sunlight to make up for the energy that's lost to space. Every single winter of every single year (and remember that summer on one hemisphere is winter on the other), huge swaths of the planet are losing energy to space. It's enough to bring the frost line of soil down several feet just in the northern US--I'd hate to think how deep it penetrates in Canada.

There is no comparison of the surface area affected by severe winters to the surface area of geothermal wells, and as such, there is no comparing the energy loss between the two.

And keep in mind, nobody's suggesting drilling into the mantle, let alone the core. That's known as a volcano. We don't really have materials to safely handle that sort of well. And the crust of the earth is so remarkably thin compared to the size of the mantle... well, I'm not sure we'll have to worry about it for millenia if not more.

Re:Geothermal issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845874)

2. What happens to the atmosphere when we pump all that heat from the core into it? How long until the oceans boil?

If we continue with our current growth in energy use, we will reach a surface temperature of 100C in 400 years. It doesn't matter if the energy comes from geothermal or nuclear or fossil sources. It's pure thermodynamics.

Re:Geothermal issues (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845980)

Citation please? If you've used any numbers at all to derive that, you've extrapolated a curve based on the assumption that it's exponential. If that couple next door that had a baby 3 years ago, and twins 2 years after that continues the trend, they'll have 16000 children by the time she reaches menopause. What, praytell could we be neglecting in our analysis of these trends?

Re:Geothermal issues (1)

kenboldt (1071456) | more than 2 years ago | (#37846026)

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

Who let Al "several million degrees" Gore onto Slashdot?

Re:Geothermal issues (2)

orgelspieler (865795) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845964)

According to this guy [ucsd.edu] , we have about 450 years until the oceans boil, no matter where we get the energy from. Scariest. blog. ever.

Re:Geothermal issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37846022)

I've always had two issues with articles on geothermal
1. What happens to the core when we start pumping large amounts of heat out of the core? How long until it cools enough for our magnetic field to collapse enough to be dangerous?
2. What happens to the atmosphere when we pump all that heat from the core into it? How long until the oceans boil?
Seems like very important questions to me...

I guess high-school science class isn't what it used to be. That's what happens when you gut the education system. :-(

Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845452)

Hots spots are suspiciously close to Google data centers.

neat (1)

joeytmann (664434) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845466)

Neat map and all but I wonder what would the effects would be of us sapping all this heat energy out of the crust of the planet do to tempatures?

Re:neat (2)

RMingin (985478) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845572)

About the same as you throwing a small ice chip into a bonfire. Your incredible lack of scale is ASTOUNDING. If you could magically 'pump' heat from the core to the surface or vice versa, there's enough heat energy in the core to LIQUEFY the surface of the earth for thousands of years. Also, the amount we'd be tapping into is an infinitesimal fraction of what the Earth naturally radiates each day.

Re:neat (0)

joeytmann (664434) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845638)

We always seem to say that about new technologys, oh it will last forever and have no effect. Then we learn much latter that it was a mistake......

Re:neat (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845924)

Even assuming no radiative losses, it would take 3 million exajoules to raise the temperature of the oceans by one degree F. At current energy usage of 500 exajoules per year, that would take 6000 years.

If you want to worry about global warming, concentrate on the areas that involve some leverage because our primary energy usage is miniscule in comparison to the planet.

Re:neat (2)

Arlet (29997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845744)

I think it's your own lack of scale that's astounding. There is plenty of heat stored in the earth, but the rock is a very good insulator. Trying to extract too much, and the rock will cool rapidly.

The average geothermal heat flux on the earth is only 0.1 Watt per square meter. That's only 0.1% of the energy that we get from the sun.

Re:neat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845640)

Virtually nothing since Earth is releasing [scientificamerican.com] over 44,000,000,000,000 watts of power continuously to space anyway. We use around 10TW of electricity for the whole planet.

Re:neat (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845732)

About the same danger of you farting in your apartment might stink up all of New York City.

frist sto4?6! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845510)

You. The tireless onl7 way To go: = 1400 NetBSD

Oil or coal? (1)

glrotate (300695) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845530)

Wouldn't it be more suitable to replacing coal?

Only smart... (2)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845580)

Anything Google can do in the arena works to benefit all of humanity (admittedly it works to benefit those who are not getting wealthier creating a need for war in the Middle East the most).

Now if somebody would just put together a project to find more efficient thermalelectric materials so we can take advantage of heat energy represented by the smaller but significant geothermal gradient that is present "everywhere"....

Gotta love any form of energy which can be tapped by going under existing arable land, buildings, and Ma Nature's ecosystems without a subsequent risk of spilling crap everywhere and pollution through combustion.

Up Next, Global Cooling. (0)

RavenChild (854835) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845610)

I can see the headlines in a hundred years:

"Up against concerns over the global cooling crisis, researches are finding ways to utilize our abundant oil reserves to slow the inevitable heat death of our planet."

Re:Up Next, Global Cooling. (1)

haruchai (17472) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845698)

No worries, coal seam fires like this one : http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2007-11/21/content_7120136.htm [xinhuanet.com] , some of which have been burning for decades should keep Dear Old Mother Urth toasty warm.

Re:Up Next, Global Cooling. (1)

RavenChild (854835) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845850)

There's always this one too: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derweze [wikipedia.org]

Not really worried about heat death, we're (the human race) won't be around when it happens anyways.

It ain't all pretty steam (1)

NMBob (772954) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845626)

There's a lot of nasty crap that gets dredged up out of the ground with geothermal power production too depending on how you do it. It's far from "clean" energy. It's just different dirty stuff.

Re:It ain't all pretty steam (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845666)

At least you are not dumping that stuff right into the air, or into a slurry pond.

Nothing is totally clean, but somethings are much cleaner than others.

Re:It ain't all pretty steam (2)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845828)

The thing is with the vast majority of these systems, the in-ground portion is a closed loop like the radiator in your car. The cooled water is pumped into the ground, which heats it. When it comes up hot its heat is transferred to another medium, that works like a refrigerator but in reverse. In normal operation, no emissions at all.

Now compare that map to Earthquakes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845716)

Better compare that map to earthquakes to know how you have to design your systems to reduce problems from quakes.

Yellowstone (1)

jomama717 (779243) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845760)

That giant dark red glob where yellowstone is pretty foreboding... I assume that 90% of the stuff you hear in all of the shows about a mass extinction event following a yellowstone "supervolcano" eruption is just hype to get people to watch, but still.

Re:Yellowstone (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845912)

So then - cool it down by drawing out the geothermal energy from that spot and get electrical energy from it as a side-effect.

You need to pipe a lot of water to that spot, but you can get a huge amount of steam from it.

OK, partly a joke, you can't cool it down enough to have a considerable effect on the development of a volcano, but there's a lot of energy to get there.

vulcan energy (1)

pinfall (2430412) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845832)

Drill down 100' get enough water for a generation. Drill dowdown 10,000 feet, get enough energy for 100 generations?

A rose by any other name... (2)

XiaoMing (1574363) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845834)

Hilarious thing is that over 90% of geothermal energy is generated by the fission of nuclear isotopes anyway. All it does differently is during disposal when the earth just kind of farts it out as Radon into our basements.

Google is evil! Don't let them deceive you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845836)

Now they also know the geotermal potential of YOUR HOME! Think about it.

Here's why it'll never, ever, happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845868)

Quick google search:
http://www.sierraclub.org/policy/conservation/geothermal.aspx Note that this resolution was adopted in 1980.

The peter principle of the environmentalists precludes any development. Because we JUST DON'T KNOW if it will do anything bad. Because NO LEVEL of testing and impact study will ever prove NOTHING BAD will happen. So you've got hydro blocked because of salmon, you've got solar blocked because of bugs and turtles in the desert, you've got wind blocked because of the birds, and you've got geothermal blocked because it's in the parks, under the mountains, by the streams, and in the earth, and it'll be regulated with oversight and red tape and studies until it's completely uneconomical.

Re:Here's why it'll never, ever, happen (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845932)

And all the time you burn oil and mine uranium to get energy.

Don't worry, it'll be dangerous too (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845896)

Just wait for the opponents to raise these issues [wikipedia.org]

How is Geothermal renewable? (1)

johanwanderer (1078391) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845918)

It might be vast, but once you extract that heat and pump it into the atmosphere, wouldn't it cause a local cooling of the rocks?

How long would a drill site last without drilling more?

Why is electricity not free? (2, Insightful)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 2 years ago | (#37845928)

Seriously. Electricity to residential users should be free (up to a consumption level).

Earlier this year my wife and I visited Grand Coulee Dam [wikipedia.org] . It produces nearly 7GW and costs them rather little in maintenance to operate.

This weekend we drove through the windmills in eastern Washington [rdaltonphotos.biz] and Oregon. They sit there and turn generating more power than can be transmitted [oregonlive.com] , costing little in maintenance to operate.

And now Google is encouraging ramping up geothermal (which looks like good stuff for Oregon!), and again requires little cost in maintenance.

Electricity is electricity. The expectation is that when I plug something into an outlet in my house I will get 110v. With the exception of inadequate supply, electricity in any home in the United States should be identical. No one advertises that their electricity is better, so there is no competition in 'who builds a better product'. Is this something the government should take control of, create jobs to build more clean energy production, end-of-life fuel burning generators, and turn electricity into a 'free service'? Residential use up to a certain usage could be free, while overages would incur modest fees. Commercial locations would continue to pay same or even reduced rates to help maintain the facilities. Theoretically this could encourage the move to electricity in other areas currently using other fuel sources, like automobiles. Electric cars are cheaper to operate now, but what if it was FREE?

Seems like something to think about.

Geothermal CANNOT replace petroleum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37845944)

a_hanso is a complete moron.

In the US, very little electricity comes from petroleum.

"Google seems to believe that [geothermal] is our best bet at kicking the oil habit"

Fucking stupid sentence. Totally fucking stupid!

It could replace some *coal* and *natural gas* usage, but geothermal energy will not make any difference whatsoever in petroleum usage until there are more (some) battery-powered cars or a hydrogen infrastructure.

I notice the linked pages do not mention oil or petroleum, so it was an invention of imbecile submitter "a_hanso"

Where do all these stupid people come from?

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