Energy and Global Warming News for October 12th: Largest geothermal hotspot in eastern US found in West Virginia; 20% electricity by wind in 2030?

Geothermal WV

Researchers use drilling data to find a geothermal hot spot in West Virginia

Researchers have uncovered the largest geothermal hot spot in the eastern United States. According to a unique collaboration between Google and academic geologists, West Virginia sits atop several hot patches of Earth, some as warm as about 400 degrees. If engineers are able to tap the heat, the state could become a producer of green energy for the region.

In 2004, researchers at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and elsewhere created the Geothermal Map of North America, which charted the potential for geothermal energy. Two years ago, the philanthropic arm of the search engine giant, hired the SMU scientists to update the map.

The group analyzed oil and gas firms’ temperature data that no one had mapped. Those data were collected via single thermometer readings on the end of drilling equipment, but the readings were artificially low because of water used to cool and wash the equipment. So the SMU team corrected the readings according to the rock type that was being drilled. Then the researchers estimated the temperatures of adjacent rock layers according to their geologic properties.

The work revealed surprising results for West Virginia, a state that had only four data points in the 2004 map. The Google-funded effort added measurements from more than 1,450 wells in the state. The warm spots were found at depths of about two to five miles. By comparison, geothermal hot spots in Nevada reach about 400 degrees at about 1.25 miles below the surface, and steam produced from them runs turbines to create electricity. Iceland, meanwhile, has 400-degree temperatures just below the surface and uses warm water to heat buildings and showers throughout Reykjavik and elsewhere.

For background on geothermal, see “Hot rocks are a rockin’ hot climate solution.”

For more on this fascinating discovery, see

U.S. wind could provide 20 percent of electricity by 2030

The U.S. could generate 20 percent of its electricity from wind energy by 2030 if it develops offshore wind farms in the coastal waters of 26 states, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). Developing the nation’s offshore wind potential would also create $200 billion in “new economic activity” and 43,000 jobs, according to the report. While the U.S. currently leads the world in installed land-based wind capacity, the nation has no major offshore wind farms.

Last week, however, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed a 28-year offshore lease for the nation’s first offshore wind project off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., which would produce an average of 182 megawatts. State and federal officials are now considering other major offshore wind farm proposals. The Department of Energy report said that if offshore wind farms are densely developed along the U.S. coastline, such installations could theoretically provide four times the electricity capacity that now exists in the U.S.

Google to fund offshore power project

Google Inc. said it plans to help fund an ambitious project to lay undersea cables to connect offshore windmills off the mid-Atlantic coast.

The company said the so-called Atlantic Wind Connection backbone will stretch 350 miles off the coast from New Jersey to Virginia and will be able to connect 6,000 megawatts of offshore wind turbines. That amount is equivalent to 60% of the wind energy installed in the entire U.S. last year, and enough to serve approximately 1.9 million households, the technology giant said.

Google said in a blog post early Tuesday that the backbone will be built around offshore power hubs that will collect power from multiple offshore wind farms and deliver it via undersea cables to electrical-transmission systems on land. “This system will act as a superhighway for clean energy,” wrote Rick Needham, Google’s green-business operations director.

Other investors in the project include Japan’s Marubeni Corp. and Good Energies, a U.S. company that invests in energy projects. Google said it had a 37.5% interest in the proposed project’s initial development stage.

The project was reported earlier by the New York Times and Nikkei. Google’s blog post didn’t disclose a total value of the initiative, and a company spokesman couldn’t be reached for comment. The Times article put the total cost at $5 billion.

India solar power plans over-subscribed

(Reuters) – India will begin rolling out hundreds of megawatts of solar power by December next year, ahead of an initial target for an ambitious plan that seeks to zoom production from near zero to 20 gigawatts by 2022.

Under its Solar Mission plan issued last year, India is to produce 1,300 megawatt (MW) of power by 2013, an additional supply of up to 10 gigawatt (GW) by 2017 and the rest by 2022 at an overall investment of about $70 billion.

Once implemented, the plan would see output equivalent to one-eighth of India’s current installed power base, helping the world’s third-worst polluter limit reliance on coal and easing a power deficit that has crimped economic growth.

Debashish Majumdar, chairman and managing director of Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency, told the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit that a strong investor interest in India’s solar power indicated the goals could be met.

“We are over-subscribed for the first phase of 1,300 MW, and by December 2011 generation will have begun work for at least half of this target,” he said.

“The rest could be done by December 2012 which will be ahead of schedule. There is no dearth of investors.”

Going by current figures, for example, investments chasing every 1000 MW of photo-voltaic and solar-thermal power was almost four times the capacity.

With about 250-300 clear sunny days in a year, India’s solar power reception is about 5,000 trillion kilowatt hour per year, meaning just 1 percent of India’s land area can meet the country’s entire electricity requirements till 2030.

Recycling electrical waste can be made safer, researchers say

People in developing countries who make a living scavenging the dumps of electronic equipment thrown away by the first world face daily hazards most of us never consider as we gaily order our new mobile, laptop or flat-screen television. Recycling our waste electrical items is a dirty job, and those who do it are among the poorest and least educated in the world.

The common practice of burning plastic cables to gain quick access to the valuable copper inside, for instance, gives off smoke that can cause chest and lung problems. Some of the chemicals released into the environment are carcinogenic. Crude break-up of electrical items can cause heavy metals such as lead and mercury to leach into the soil, and then into the water table. From here, they are taken up by plants, ingested by animals, and eventually accumulate at the top of the food chain, in humans.

Though it is now illegal under the UN’s Basel Convention for developed countries to ship their toxic e-waste to other countries, there’s no doubt it still happens. And even when electronic equipment is certified as safe for re-use and exported legally, the thousands of manual workers who dismantle it are still unlikely to have had any training in how to safely handle it.

Educating these workers in what is a highly casual sector is the problem now being tackled by Professor Oladele Osibanjo, director of the Basel Convention Coordinating Centre For Training and Technology Transfer for the African Region. Osibanjo, based in Lagos, Nigeria, has campaigned internationally against illegal dumping: now, he says, it is imperative to educate workers in how to retrieve the valuable components they depend on for financial survival without damaging their health and that of their community and wider environment.

Study: China’s CO2 levels improving

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Oct. 11 (UPI) — Levels of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in Beijing and surrounding provinces suggest energy efficiency is improving in the region, researchers say.

The six-year study was conducted by atmospheric scientists and environmental engineers from Harvard University and Beijing’s Tsinghua University to measure combustion efficiency, a component of overall energy efficiency, a Harvard release said.

The researchers say their findings are consistent with official Chinese government statistics and could bolster China’s credibility during international negotiations on the country’s commitments to combating climate change.

“The data indicate a trend toward cleaner, more efficient combustion in the Beijing region over several years leading up to the 2008 Olympics,” J. William Munger, of Harvard’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences said, “and as far as we can tell so far, these gains have been maintained since the Olympics.”

Maldives President Nasheed seeks a low-carbon path

Few countries in the world face as immediate a threat from climate change as the Republic of Maldives, a low-lying group of atolls in the Indian Ocean whose coastline is eroding and whose water supplies are now being infiltrated by saltwater from the sea. Unusually high ocean temperatures damaged the coral reefs off the Maldives’ shores this year, signaling the start of a global bleaching event that now spans from the Pacific to the Caribbean

Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed has made climate change central to his nation’s domestic and foreign policy agenda since being elected president in October 2008. He has argued that the world needs to cut its greenhouse gas emissions drastically to protect countries such as his. As part of the Copenhagen Accord brokered in last year’s U.N. climate talks, the Republic of Maldives has pledged to wean itself off fossil fuels altogether by 2020. And on Thursday Nasheed, a former carpenter, climbed the roof of his presidential residence to put the final touches on solar panels that will provide half the power it consumes on an annual basis.

Nasheed answered questions by phone last week about his views on climate change.

Q: To what extent is your decision to install a solar system on your residence a symbolic act, or a substantive act?

A: It has both dimensions. For us, climate change is a very serious challenge. It’s a present challenge, it’s not a challenge in the future. We need to act now. I know the Maldives going carbon neutral is not going to change the world. It will save us a whole lot of foreign currency [which we spend buying fossil fuels from other countries.] … We believe it is possible to find a low-carbon development strategy that can be mapped in a way to other developing countries. It is not too late to mend our ways.

To counter West, China and India reach out to small island-States

The BASIC group of large developing nations – India, China, Brazil and South Africa – on Monday intensified their efforts to win the crucial support of small island States on the climate change debate ahead of the year-end U.N. summit at Cancun in Mexico.

Their attempts, however, faced hurdles, with persistent differences on emission reduction targets between the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the BASIC countries.

The AOSIS has emerged as a key voice in the climate debate, given the particular susceptibility of small islands to the consequences of climate change and rising sea-levels.

The West, in the past, used the interests of the AOSIS countries to pressure large developing nations like China and India to take on greater commitments.

Representatives from Grenada, current chair of the AOSIS, attended a two-day meeting of the BASIC group, which concluded here on Monday.

Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh said, Grenada’s attendance, and contribution to a statement released on Monday, was “a very positive development.”

“The most important thing is the statement has been brought out by not just the BASIC group, but other countries as well, including representatives of the AOSIS who greatly contributed to this meeting,” he told The Hindu.

Solar energy proponents push California to adopt ‘feed-in tariff’ for individual power producers

Despite being barely one-20th the size of the U.S. and more often overcast, Germany still manages to produce four times as much solar-generated power.

That’s because, according to green-tech analysts, Germany has a government-mandated program that requires utilities there to pay homeowners, warehouse operators and companies for power from their rooftop solar installations.

Called a feed-in tariff, it’s an arrangement that clean-tech proponents are pushing California to replicate, hoping that such programs can boost alternative energy production in the state.

But some utilities that would have to design and administer the programs are balking and are urging lawmakers to take their time considering such proposals, which they argue could mean higher power bills for their customers.

The issue is expected to be a hot topic of debate this week at the Solar Power International conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center, one of the largest gatherings of its kind.

20 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for October 12th: Largest geothermal hotspot in eastern US found in West Virginia; 20% electricity by wind in 2030?

  1. Mark says:

    Gotta love Google.

    Lots of good news this morning.
    Thank you.

    NY Times has an informative article on the floods in Pakistan, mentioning the role of climate change in that disaster.

  2. _Flin_ says:

    It’s quite irritating to read about megawatts of solar installations. Isn’t that megawattpeak?
    And concerning prices of feed-in tariffs: German guaranteed feed-in tariffs for renewables (pv, wind, geothermal, biomass, biogas) are paid for by all buyers of power via a compensation on the power bill. Each kWh costs 2,047 €Ct. more, which is usually about 10-15% of the power price. Companies using a lot of power do not have to pay this.
    It is mandatory for the companies owning the power grid to feed-in all the renewable energy. But the difference between guaranteed renewable feed-in price and the rates at the power exchange market are compensated via above mechanism.
    Compensation last year was about 8bn€. Feed-in tariffs are guaranteed for 20 years after installation, making an investment in a PV roof a safe investment with a 6% yearly RoI.

  3. MarkF says:

    “The group analyzed oil and gas firms’ temperature data that no one had mapped. Those data were collected via single thermometer readings on the end of drilling equipment, but the readings were artificially low ”

    oil companies provide incorrect, artificially low temperature readings, in areas that may provide green energy.

    I am not surprised.


    more and more positive news rolling out.

    green energy is gathering strength. cause for optimism.

  4. Bill W says:

    In the feed-in tariff story, I don’t understand the comments from the folks in Palm Desert. We already have Net Energy Metering on grid-tied systems, where the utility pays you for any excess power you generate. So what’s keeping the folks in Palm Desert from installing PV today?

    Maybe I just don’t understand the difference between NEM and a feed-in tariff. It sounds like maybe the FIT pays a higher price for renewable energy.

  5. I love geothermal, but worry about drilling for it. Has anybody examined the risks of doing so?

  6. Muoncounter says:

    Compared to the effects of mountain-top removal mining, the risks of geothermal are manageable. However, the WV hot spot is comparatively deep, which makes drilling and production that much more expensive: “The warm spots were found at depths of about two to five miles. By comparison, geothermal hot spots in Nevada reach about 400 degrees at about 1.25 miles below the surface”.

  7. Colorado Bob says:

    Mark @ #1
    Many thanks for the Pakistan flood article .

    Couple of weeks ago I posted a link in which a UN official reported 5,000 mm.
    of rain falling in the Swat Valley . A number so high, as to not be believed.
    But here in the NYT article today , another report comes out :

    ” What Shah and the citizens of Nowshera and Charsadda witnessed in those days was a perfect storm event never before seen in Pakistan’s history. Government officials say that from July 28 to Aug. 3, parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recorded almost 12 feet of rainfall in one week. The province normally averages slightly above 3 feet for an entire year. “

  8. Mike says:

    ‘Dead aim’ ad: Rifle-toting Senate hopeful blasts hole in cap-and-trade

    Joe Manchin is a Democrat from West Virginia running for Senate, but in his new ‘dead aim’ ad, he takes on the White House, Obamacare, and cap-and-trade. It’s an indication of how the traditionally Democratic state might be turning red. The seat is crucial to GOP Senate takeover aims.

  9. Colorado Bob says:

    I also believe that the Pakistan floods produced rain at altitudes so high as to melt large snow fields.

    This image is from a BBC story . The photographer took these pictures just before the rains came, and right after the water went down. Notice the the snow fields in the back ground –

    It was raining at the very tops of the Hindu Kush.

  10. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Google putting big money into underwater backbone for connecting offshore wind farms…

  11. john atcheson says:

    #2 Flin:

    Well, I understand your irritation. Let’s make a deal: let’s calculate the external costs of using fossil fuels using a realistic discount rate (such as used in the Stern Report) add those costs to the price of a kW/hr and then do the math of the “incremental” costs of the feed-in tariff.

    Do that, and we can compare apples to apples.

  12. Michael Tucker says:

    The Largest Coal Company in the World…

    Is it a US company? The US has been said to be the “Saudi Arabia of coal.”

    No, not the US. Not China either; the worlds larges coal consumer. Not Australia, the largest supplier of China’s massive coal hunger.

    IT IS AN INDIAN COAL COMPANY named Coal India.

    How will India provide its massive population with electricity in the 21st century? Coal. Sorry environment but India needs cheep electricity.

    “Coal India has a couple of advantages. First of all it sits on reserves which is the largest among all its peers in the world by many times. Its coal production has steadily grown and today it is the largest coal mining company in the world. The aggregate production last year was 431 million tonne which is slightly higher than the aggregate production of the second and third largest coal mining companies in the world.”

  13. _Flin_ says:

    @BillW #4: The problem that is solved by feed-in tariffs is that PV is currently the most expensive power you can buy. That is why the German feed-in tariffs are fixed for 20 years from installation. They fall however, every year for a certain percentage (I think 9%), and 3% for each 1.5 GWp after the first.
    This way you can install a PV that doesn’t make much sense economically. And it helps to create an economy of scale to kickstart all the efficiency gains through R&D.

    @john atcheson #11: I am not irritated at all. I think feed-in tariffs are a nice thing. Only thing one has to care about is to keep the balance between additional costs and a nice but not exaggerated RoI of the people installing them.

    Concerning realistic discount rates: Might as well throw dice. Throw peak oil in the mix, add vanishing resources, and suddenly your discount rate is negative and you wish you’d installed all those solar panels and geothermal plants 5 years ago when you still had the resources and the fuel to ship them over from China.

  14. mike roddy says:

    Geothermal is one of the cheapest forms of renewable energy, and if West Virginia goes for it everybody will win, including former coal miners. Be prepared for the coal companies and their politicians coming out with phony studies about geothermal- I expect them to produce documents saying this will cause volcanoes, including in your toilet.

    Let’s see if the state government can do the right thing here.

  15. Mike says:

    Not sure what to make of this:

    A Climate Proposal Beyond Cap and Trade

  16. Dan B says:

    Energy Interns;

    Thanks for this post! There are days when it seems as though the Koch Fossils are winning and days like this where the world seems on the verge of entering the 21st Century Clean Economy.

    It’s like watching the stagecoach spokes as it races off. They appear to be going backwards when they’re actually going forward at great speed. Whether or not we’re going fast enough to outpace climate disruption is another matter.


  17. Raul M. says:

    Net metering for solar elec. Is a basic involvement
    where the elec. Utility recognizes the frequent
    supply of electricty comming from the customers
    power plant.

  18. Raul M. says:

    Gristmill has a thoughtful post on the
    involvements between bicyclists and

  19. Daniel Bailey says:


    Typo in your headline; should be “electricity” vice “electrictiy”.

    Good article.

    The Yooper

    [JR: Thanks!]

  20. Mike says:

    Dan B (#16): “There are days when it seems as though the Koch Fossils are winning and days like this where the world seems on the verge of entering the 21st Century Clean Economy.”

    Just like with the tobacco wars, they know they will lose – eventually. Their only goal is to delay. The longer the delay the more money they make. Period. The number of lives lost or the amount of environmental damage is not their concern. Money is.