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Google Warms to West Virginia’s Vast Geothermal Potential
The researchers calculated that if 2 percent of the available geothermal energy could be harnessed, the state could produce up to 18,890 megawatts (MW) of clean energy.
The study was conducted with more detailed mapping and more data points than had been used in previous research. For example, 1,455 new thermal data points were added to existing geothermal maps using oil, gas and water wells.
The research team found that most of the high-temperature points are located in the eastern part of the state.
“The presence of a large, baseload, carbon-neutral and sustainable energy resource in West Virginia could make an important contribution to enhancing the U.S. energy security and for decreasing CO2 emissions,” the report concluded.
Western Virginia is not a tectonically active zone, which has traditionally been seen as a requirement for economically viable geothermal power production and has resulted in most existing geothermal sites in the U.S. being located in the west of the country.
However, engineers reckon that emerging techniques could be used to harvest geothermal energy locked in tectonically stable regions. For example, pioneering technologies could be used to harvest hot geothermal fluids, along with oil or gas from the same well. Enhanced geothermal systems are also increasingly being used, in which fluids are injected into rock, replacing natural hydrothermal convection.