A new mapping tool from the U.S. Department of Energy lets users see how geothermal power plants across the country are taking advantage of the heat stored within the earth’s crust.
Most of the nation’s 154 operational and planned geothermal plants are clustered in western states, where geothermal heat potential is especially high (red areas). Notably, the map identifies two areas that appear ripe for new geothermal development: one in the Great Plains and another at the border of Virginia and West Virginia.
This map shows locations of existing and in-development geothermal plants, over a base layer that shows geothermal heat flow potential in different parts of the country. Red indicates high heat flow potential, and blue is low potential. Numbers indicate multiple power plants are clustered in an area. An interactive version of this map is available at energy.gov.
The bulk of the facilities are conventional geothermal plants, which generate power using fluid found naturally deep below earth’s surface. Steam captured at the surface spins a turbine, which then powers an electric generator.
A newer type of hydrothermal technology, called enhanced geothermal, forces cold water from the surface down into the hot crust, which also generates steam that powers a generator. Both types are generally considered clean sources of energy.