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Earth Power Science

West Virginia Is Geothermically Active 239

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-to-sell-some-volcano-insurance dept.
sciencehabit writes "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 200C and as shallow as 5 kilometers. If engineers are able to tap the heat, the state could become a producer of green energy for the region."
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West Virginia Is Geothermically Active

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  • by srussia (884021) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @05:23AM (#33792514)
    Maybe its just coal burning underground.
    • Re:Are they sure? (Score:5, Informative)

      by arivanov (12034) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @06:42AM (#33792698) Homepage

      5km is a bit too deep for coal fires.

      In any case, 200C at 5 km is also quite deep for economically viable hydrothermals. That is "deep drilling" territory which is quite expensive. As the article notes Nevada has it at sub-2km, so does most of Europe along the Alps fault line.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      This is West Virginia, chances are it's moonshine stills.

    • by skine (1524819)

      No, that's up in Centralia, PA.

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

  • Warm River Cave (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @05:29AM (#33792526)

    Makes me think researchers are idiots; folks who live there have known about the hot springs for hundreds of years.

    Places with names like 'White Sulphur Springs' suggest anything? And there's a cave I've been in nearby (admittedly over the line in Virginia) with water temperatures over 100F.

    • Re:Warm River Cave (Score:4, Informative)

      by hairyfish (1653411) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @05:53AM (#33792584)
      If anyone's an idiot, it idiot's who don't RTFA before making idiotic comments. The research wasn't simply to find hot springs, it was to identify which locations in the US were the most favourable for Geothermal Energy production.
      • Well, I did RTFA (Score:2, Insightful)

        by sean.peters (568334)

        And I have to say I was a little amazed. Geoscientists were surprised to find geothermal activity... in WV? The land of hot springs? Yes, you are correct that hot springs don't necessarily imply good geothermal energy production... but it's certainly suggestive. I still don't understand why anyone found this surprising.

        it idiot's who don't RTFA

        And speaking of idiots - don't use an apostrophe to form a plural.

    • by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @07:22AM (#33792814)

      What part of the summary, never mind the article, suggests that simply finding geothermal activity was the research goal here? I mean, here's your first sentence:

      Researchers have uncovered the largest geothermal hot spot in the eastern United States.

      Did you seriously stop after reading title? And then criticise the researchers for not noticing things?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by syousef (465911)

        Did you seriously stop after reading title? And then criticise the researchers for not noticing things?

        You're both missing the point. The point is that with a bit of luck the earth could swallow WV!

    • by pspahn (1175617)

      Warm River Cave is kind of a weenie name, dontcha think?

      If we're basing facts on things like this, I'm keeping my money in Wyoming on the Firehole River. That's much more macho sounding.

  • How 'Green'? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @05:43AM (#33792552) Journal

    Will they be scraping even more mountains off the planet to get to it? Will they fill the remaining creek beds up with the effluvia from getting to it? Will they keep even more public roads under a permanent state of "repair" and detour to disguise the fact that they're simply ruining more tax funded roadway with heavy machinery? Will they drive residents out of even more entire towns due to blasting damages and constant noise from heavy machinery? Are they going to do anything with the energy rather than find cheaper ways to dig coal? WV has two industries, coal and railroad. If they replaced coal money with energy money the railroads would die. They won't let that happen. They've been fighting off a 3/4 MV high tension line for years, you think they're going to allow an energy exporting industry to pop up, string wire for multi MV lines and sell electricity to its neighbors now that they're got them hooked on WV coal? I lived there are loved it. But I realized the state is owned by stockholders for whom green is considered a place to dig. Even of they took advantage of a chance to do something good, they wouldn't do it right -- they'd do it cheaply to maximize profits and the population would suffer the effects. WV *was* green. It's owners don't give a shit about green.
       

    • Re:How 'Green'? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @06:26AM (#33792650) Journal
      OTH, somebody like Google will have no issue with putting in their OWN system, setting up a data center, and shipping bits/bytes out. What would that do to WV? It would lead to a massive influx of money seeking to do the same. And that would lead to the high tension lines as well. For WV, this is the best thing possible.
      • by fl!ptop (902193)

        It would lead to a massive influx of money seeking to do the same.

        I'm a resident of WV, and what you've said will probably never happen. There are a ton of reasons businesses don't locate in my state. The State Chamber of Commerce has come out with suggestion after suggestion as to what needs to be done to attract more business, and it's ignored every time. The state legislature is run by attorneys and lobbyists for the coal and timber industries.

        There's a reason Forbes magazine ranks WV at the bottom or

        • by pesho (843750)
          Honey, that's how things have always been and it ain't changing anytime soon.
        • I have spent some time teaching there. Believe me, if you have geo-thermal close to the top, rather than deep, then you will see money chasing it. 200C on a binary system is pretty good.
  • by Issarlk (1429361) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @06:03AM (#33792604)
    It's green energy and you have to drill to get it.
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @06:10AM (#33792622) Journal
    Oil Well drillers want to put a hole in the ground and get money out of it. Simple as that. Most oil wells last about 20 years (if lucky). A binary geo-thermal well will last 50+ years assuming that you do not pump it too fast.

    Dems run around throwing money at Wind (meh) and Solar PV (a waste of money). Yet, the simple answer here is to not just support geothermal, but do it in a smart way. Most dry wells are ran down to about 10'K feet. Yet most heat is in the 10-20'K feet arena. So who not offer up a tax break for dry wellers to drill down to that region to locate heat. This would not occur everywhere, but it would occur where ever heat is generally known to exist. With this approach, drilling companies bear the first half of the risk while gov. then helps in the second half.
    • by mean pun (717227) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @06:37AM (#33792680)

      Dems run around throwing money at Wind (meh) and Solar PV (a waste of money).

      This is what I always admire about the political climate in the US. There is always someone willing to come up with a well-considered, polite, nuanced, and rational treatise of the pro's and con's of a problem, even for a complicated problem such as alternative energy. No wonder that the US is universally considered the best-functioning democracy in the world.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by WindBourne (631190)
        Just because somebody does not offer up a full explanation of the issue or thoughts on it does not mean that it was not considered.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by vlm (69642)

          does not mean that it was not considered.

          Then how did you get it so wrong or at least out of date?

          • PV may eventually become useful but it isn't there yet, and won't be any time soon. Wind power never will unless physics changes which seems rather unlikely. His concise descriptions weren't far off.
            • Actually, I am a fan of wind. The problem is that it is not a 24x7 solution, and without storage, it suffers the same problem as Solar PV. I am a fan of allowing a real open market with, subsidies/breaks/etc ONLY for issues that need to be solved i.e. any energy that does not emit a certain amount of pollution gets a time-limited and time decreasing subsidies; Likewise, another subsidy for any of the above that are baseload capable (geo-thermal, nukes, etc); And another subsidy for storage of energy that
            • ... to all the currently operating PV and wind energy generating systems out there. Seriously, have you ever driven in the US? There are wind farms all over the freaking place. Lots of home solar PV installation businesses are going like gangbusters. And all of this activity is useless (or even against the laws of physics)? I don't think so.
        • by tehcyder (746570)

          Just because somebody does not offer up a full explanation of the issue or thoughts on it does not mean that it was not considered.

          So GP's one-word "meh" to Wind power was in fact the crystallization of a carefully thought out and cogent argument weighing up the pros and cons of that particular energy source?

          • by Rockoon (1252108)
            I don't think that it could be put any more cogently than 'meh.'

            You act like you think that wind power is new, novel, innovative, or some combination of those. Its none of that. Its just 'meh'
          • by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:09AM (#33794508) Journal
            Actually, meh DOES sum it pretty well. Wind will get a little bit cheaper, but overall, it can not come too far down. OTH, things like Solar Thermal, used as an add-on to Coal/Gas plants, will pay for themselves quickly. We just need scale of manufacturing. Likewise, geo-thermal is cheaper than any other form of energy. It has 2 problems: The first is that it competes against heavily subsidized Fossil fuel as well as heavily subsidized Wind/Solar PV. Gov, needs to get out of being market picker and offer subsidy for any solution that offers solution for govs. needs. For example, we NEED to lower our emissions. First, remove all current subsidies. Then, offer a time-limited, time-decreasing subsidy for ANY power that is clean (basically below a certain amount of energy). Likewise, offer another subsidy for any of the above that is also base-load. Finally, a third subsidy for Energy Storage. Wind will plat a part of the solution, but geo-thermal, solar-thermal, etc, will play bigger roles. Interestingly, the 3rd subsidy would actually encourage electric cars that can provide storage to be used. Obviously, you would not want to use that with a battery that has short lifetimes (100-2000 charges), but cars with ultra-caps (millions of charges) would be interesting.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      Dems run around throwing money at Wind (meh) and Solar PV (a waste of money).

      Wind is a proven technology, although all these horizontal-axis wind turbines are stupid. Solar PV could pay back the energy cost of its production in 7 years in the 1970s, and can safely be assumed to be much better today. There really are things more important than money. Unfortunately, those in charge do not agree.

      Yet, the simple answer here is to not just support geothermal, but do it in a smart way.

      Oh, so you mean, only do it on a small scale with heat pipes?

      Most dry wells are ran down to about 10'K feet. Yet most heat is in the 10-20'K feet arena.

      Most of the time, if you dig down to where it's really hot, you're going to be making a steam vent. And then you're going to bring u

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by Rockoon (1252108)

        Solar PV could pay back the energy cost of its production in 7 years in the 1970s, and can safely be assumed to be much better today. There really are things more important than money. Unfortunately, those in charge do not agree.

        I'll support Solar Power sometime after the manufacturers of Photovoltaics start powering their factories with Photovoltaics. Until then, STFU about Photovoltaics. Really. Even the manufacturers don't use it, AND THEY GET THE HARDWARE AT COST.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by drinkypoo (153816)

          I'll support Solar Power sometime after the manufacturers of Photovoltaics start powering their factories with Photovoltaics.

          Is your support somehow interesting?

          Until then, STFU about Photovoltaics. Really.

          Telling me what to do? Fail.

          Even the manufacturers don't use it, AND THEY GET THE HARDWARE AT COST.

          We are still permitting secondary effects to be ignored. If you count the cost of cleaning up the pollution produced by coal and oil plants then the cost of using that type of energy is MUCH higher. Unfortunately, we do NOT count that cost. We do not even hold power plants to our own EPA standards. You can find out-of-compliance plants as fast as you can pay people to climb stacks and drop probes in them. If we were to actually force the indust

          • by Rockoon (1252108)

            We are still permitting secondary effects to be ignored. If you count the cost of cleaning up the pollution produced by coal and oil plants then the cost of using that type of energy is MUCH higher.

            Ah, the old citation-less "much higher" statistic. Thats great. Meanwhile, lets never factor in the pollution caused by Photovoltaic manufacturing, or the batteries they require to provide power round-the-clock.

            You must have a sugar-high with all that kool-aid you've been drinking. You decry a grand conspiracy by the entrenched energy monopolies, but the reality is that those same energy monopolies dont really give a shit how the energy is generated. They draw from nuclear, coal, gas, hydro, geothermal,

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by drinkypoo (153816)

              You must have a sugar-high with all that kool-aid you've been drinking. You decry a grand conspiracy by the entrenched energy monopolies, but the reality is that those same energy monopolies dont really give a shit how the energy is generated.

              That is an incredibly stupid thing to say. Of course they care. They want to generate energy by the most profitable means possible. So long as they are not forced to pay for their pollution, or indeed even to maintain reasonable standards of emissions (I am personally acquainted with a former public sector plant inspector who was paid to climb stacks and virtually everything out there is over spec because it's profitable to be) then it is more profitable to burn coal and oil. And indeed, the current price o

        • by mrfrostee (30198)

          I'll support Solar Power sometime after the manufacturers of Photovoltaics start powering their factories with Photovoltaics.

          It was done a few decades ago, before the oil companies bought the PV manufacturers.

          http://www.green-energy-news.com/arch/nrgs2010/20100020.html [green-energy-news.com]

        • ... is that PV companies can make more money sellling their PV systems than they can save by putting them in themselves. Which is not exactly an indictment of PV systems.

          Call me when you think of an actual argument.

      • by Smallpond (221300)

        Dems run around throwing money at Wind (meh) and Solar PV (a waste of money).

        Wind is a proven technology, although all these horizontal-axis wind turbines are stupid. Solar PV could pay back the energy cost of its production in 7 years in the 1970s, and can safely be assumed to be much better today. There really are things more important than money. Unfortunately, those in charge do not agree.

        Those "in charge" are the people investing in the technology and hoping for a payback on their investment. Government funding of the energy infrastructure is small in the US. Investment money will not go into a technology with a 7-year payback when there is plenty of opportunity for supplying energy with a shorter payback.

        Yet, the simple answer here is to not just support geothermal, but do it in a smart way.

        Oh, so you mean, only do it on a small scale with heat pipes?

        Most dry wells are ran down to about 10'K feet. Yet most heat is in the 10-20'K feet arena.

        Most of the time, if you dig down to where it's really hot, you're going to be making a steam vent. And then you're going to bring up radioactives. We don't need a copy of The Geysers anywhere in the world, it's an ecological disaster.

        With this approach, drilling companies bear the first half of the risk while gov. then helps in the second half.

        Why should government help at all? All they need to do is stop hindering. Government is against green power anyway; otherwise we'd have not just strip mining on BLM land, but also solar plants and the like; numerous entities would like to build them there but are being stymied while clear cutting is A-OK.

        Geothermal is not the answer. Solar would be far more useful, as it produces power when we need it most, and we have control over the pollution inherent to the process... which we do NOT have over geothermal.

        The best sites for large scale solar are not necessarily on old strip mines. Nevada has lots of sun and old copper mines but I'm not sure how much is BLM. Here's a map [blm.gov] of all the renew

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          The best sites for large scale solar are not necessarily on old strip mines. Nevada has lots of sun and old copper mines but I'm not sure how much is BLM. Here's a map of all the renewable projects the Nevada BLM knows about.

          The vast majority is "Pending". Is this stuff still waiting on Bush's moratorium or something?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by WindBourne (631190)
        Solar PV STILL has not been able to pay for itself within 20 years. ANd in the 70's, the costs of cells were much higher (lower yields, lower efficiency, etc) and competing against much lower costs energy. Solar THERMAL, OTH, pays for itself. In fact, it has a cost below Nukes, and natural gas, though still higher than Coal. In fact, one of the smartest things to do is to add solar thermal

        And then there is geo-thermal. Much lower cost than Coal. And much cleaner. Geysers has had issues, but that is beca
    • Drilling deep holes is astonishingly expensive and the price goes up just about exponentially with depth. You find what you are looking for AND THEN drill. Even in Australia where the best geothermal site is under the Cooper oil basin it's still a lot deeper than the oil and costs millions more to drill the test holes.
      • Many of the oil-gas sites here in America are around 7-10 K feet. Ok heat is also found in a number of these. However, a number of the sites have very good geo-thermal in the 10-20K feet range. The heat is typically 150-200C. Not the best, but good enough. More importantly, there are several techs on the horizon that will change the costs of geo-thermal. Potter Drilling is One. Also, Foro Energy is coming as well. Both of these will drop the price of drilling to 30K to below what it costs to drill to 10K t
    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      While I too feel that wind and solar have limited potential right now, but they do not have zero.
      I wouldn't dismiss them so quickly. Geothermal like you are talking about is also not really currently practical. The depth makes the cost actually higher than wind and or solar.
      We should exploit geothermal where it is practical as well as wind, solar, and nuclear.
      Only the ignorant dismisses the idea that we need to diversify our sources of energy.

  • Collaboration? (Score:5, Informative)

    by pedantic bore (740196) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @06:26AM (#33792648)

    Although very generous, I think it's a bit of a stretch to call Google's grant to SMU a "collaboration", or to only mention Google and omit any mention of USDOE and other entities that have been funding this research at SMU and elsewhere for many years. For example, this this report from 2006 [inel.gov], which points out the potential of the thermal hotspot in West Virginia...

    It doesn't have the cool Google Earth graphics, however.

  • by kenh (9056) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @07:07AM (#33792764) Homepage Journal

    Too bad Senator Byrd passed away, he could have diverted tens of billions of dollars to WV to fund this effort, then we could have had the Robert Byrd Hot Air Energy Generation Facility, and his legacy would live on!

  • by Splab (574204) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @07:19AM (#33792800)

    They tried it in Basel (Switzerland), didn't work out too well for them.

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @07:22AM (#33792808) Journal

    They should check other states. Maybe they too have former state senators/KKK members spinning in their graves at the idea of a black US president?

    Either that, or Satan finally came to collect his due.

  • Near Inferno, West Virginia
    Fiery Mountains, pyroclastic rivers
    Life is doomed there, 'midst the blackened trees
    See the mighty mountains tremb'lin like leaves

    Lava flows, take me home
    To the place that erupts
    West Virginia, baleful mama
    Take me home, Lava flows.

  • by lyonsden (543685) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @07:38AM (#33792880) Homepage
    - west-virginia-is-a-geothermal-ho.html

    WV has a bad reputation, and story URLs like that are not going to help

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That is actually pretty accurate. Energy companies have been raping WV for a long time and she just let's them.

  • How much heat can we suck out of the earth before we start noticing effects? When we first sipped from oil deposits we thought the supply was unlimmited - so we built billions oil-fueled cars and painted ourselves into a corner. Would someone with real credentials please stand up and say what needs to be said: Geo-thermal is a finite supply - and at some level of human consumption mining it will destabilize our planet.

    • by chadplusplus (1432889) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @09:56AM (#33793792)
      Indeed, all energy sources are of finite supply, but its a question of scale. There's a finite amount of fossil fuels, the sun only puts on a finite amount of light and the lifetime of the Sun is limited, and there is a finite amount of trapped heat inside of the Earth. In fact, there is a finite amount of hydrogen available in the universe with which to form stars. But we as a species are trying to maintain our style/standard of living out as far as possible - currently, our efforts are at extending our society beyond the availability of fossil fuels. One day, hopefully, we will be trying to extend our society beyond the life of the Sun. The issue now, is how do we get beyond fossil fuels?

      The ultimate energy source, for which we all hope, is to master controlled fusion. We're not there yet. So we look to other sources to fill the need as fossil fuel supply dwindles. Together, solar, wind and geothermal may be able to bridge the gap. If, as some suggest, fusion will forever be illusive, then I'm afraid we're already screwed.

      As to your question, IIRC, at current consumption rates, we would barely make a dent into the stored heat inside the Earth; however, you are correct, if we continue to grow consumption and suck heat out indefinitely, it will eventually make a difference, but that is hopefully far enough out into the future that it permits us to perfect fusion.
  • Much of the earth's internal heat is not generated by radioactive decay or tidal forces, but is transient, left over from when the earth formed. Its necessary for plate techtonics, which helps keep the surface chemically in balance despite erosion and natural forms of pollution. Its also necessary for the magnetic field and its shielding effect.

    If we drill for geothermal energy for power on a large scale, do we hasten the earth's cooling by any appreciable amount? The effect must be tiny, and adverse res

  • by Corporate Drone (316880) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @09:05AM (#33793328)

    Here we were, blaming undergrads for those couches pulled off of porches and set ablaze after WVU football games... and all along, it was just spontaneous combustion as hot spots poked through the surface...!

  • "shallow" (Score:2, Troll)

    by v1 (525388)

    and as shallow as 5 kilometers

    Their definition of "shallow" varies greatly from mine.

    Is it even practical to do geothermal energy at that depth?

  • Protected Land (Score:4, Interesting)

    by daedae (1089329) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @09:47AM (#33793698)

    Not that this comment will get read, you know, being so far down the page...

    Presumably, the hotter the temperature, the better, in terms of generating geothermal energy. That means that the eastern part of the state (with the exception of the panhandle) would be the best for generating geothermal. However, a lot of that land along the WV/VA border is protected: state parks, national forests, national rec areas, and a large number of caverns that are declared off-limits. The Greenbanks radio astronomy telescope is also in that area, and a couple miles around it are restricted from having wireless communications or other serious electrical equipment that could interfere with radio astronomy.

    On the other hand, if coal ever goes out of fashion, I guess the state will have to make a decision - with coal and tourism being our two biggest sources of money, I guess they'll have to decide whether the state parks are more valuable for tourism or generating power.

  • Iceland (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Trip6 (1184883) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @10:01AM (#33793842)

    Just got back from Iceland, the whole country is powered by geothermal wells. In fact, the main power plant has a pipe feed of hot water to supply Rejykavik, and when you take a shower there you smell like rotten eggs.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      I guess if you are willing to live on volcano there must be some benefits.
      "and when you take a shower there you smell like rotten eggs". And that is not one of them IMHO.

      • by Trip6 (1184883)

        True, the whole island sits on a column of molten lava that leads right down to the magma chamber. Every other year or so the place just erupts somewhere, like it did in April.

  • by DieByWire (744043) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @10:11AM (#33793920)
    All they have to do is remove the top 5 kilometers of mountain top and then that hot water will be at the surface for easy pickins.
  • Is that the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS) unit is in West Virginia. Were we to loose that law enforcement around the country would loose the ability to identify subject based on ten-print. So lets relocate it to a geologically less active area of the country, like the northeast.

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