Geothermal is a stable & plentiful source of clean energy available all around the world, including in the United States (especially in the West). But that industry is still in its infancy and very little of that resource's potential is being tapped (a bit over 10 gigawatts worldwide, with about 3 of those in the U.S. and 2 in the Philippines). Hopefully this will change over time, as we phase out dirty power sources and as the cost of getting heat deep underground falls.
To give you an idea of the potential of geothermal power and of how far along we are, I'd like to share with you some great maps from the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). The first one (above) shows the resource potential for the country, with the redder areas being more favorable for deep enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), and dots identifying known hydrothermal sites. Note that there are many hydrothermal sites in Alaska even if there's no data yet on EGS potential.
After seeing the last map, this one be surprising. Most of the geothermal potential in the U.S. is concentrated in the Western half of the country, and it's where most existing and future projects can be found.
The states in red all either have existing geothermal plants, or planned ones. The numbers in white represent the number of megawatts of capacity for the existing plants, and the yellow numbers are a range of megawatts for planned capacity. California is by far the current leader (with 2.7 gigawatts), but Nevada also has huge planned capacity.
Total installed capacity is 3,386 MW, and total planned capacity is 2,511 to 2,606 MW.
This map shows all the currently operational hydrothermal stations in the US. As you can see, there are huge clusters in California and Nevada.
This map is similar, but it shows planned hydrothermal plants across the US. Not too surprisingly, the majority are again clustered in California and Nevada.
Looking at maps can be a bit abstract, so I thought I'd show you what actual geothermal power plants look like. This one is the Sonoma Calpine 3 geothermal power plant at The Geysers field in the Mayacamas Mountains of Somona County California. The Geysers is a complex of "22 geothermal power plants, drawing steam from more than 350 wells, located in the Mayacamas Mountains 72 mi (116 km) north of San Francisco, California."
Can emerging technology defeat global warming? The United States has invested tens of billions of dollars in clean energy projects as our leaders try to save our crumbling economy and our poisoned planet in one bold, green stroke. Are we finally on the brink of a green-energy "power surge," or is it all a case of too little, too late?