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Imagine if the fastest, most efficient way to meet the nation's need for clean energy was to tap into its most treasured natural resource: Yellowstone National Park.

Self-proclaimed problem-solver Steve M. Green claims that the geothermal energy of the Yellowstone caldera could generate enough steam-powered electricity to power man's needs across the globe.

Aww come on, Steve, isn't it enough what you psychos did to Handkerchief Pool?

One hundred years ago, one of the most famous attractions in Yellowstone was a small spring called Handkerchief Pool. Visitors threw dirty handkerchiefs into the water. The cloths were sucked into the depths, only to emerge a few minutes later, considerably cleaner. Other objects were also thrown into the hot spring, including coins, broken bottles, rocks, hair pins, and a small horseshoe.

The plumbing system of Handkerchief Pool was damaged and eventually the spring became dormant. Today this hot spring has nearly been forgotten.

Could make one's hanky need a good cleaning.

How much power can be extracted from Yellowstone with even today's primitive technology can only be guessed until Steve and his plumbers go to work but it ain't gonna happen.  Steve won't even get to see Handkerchief Pool put to use.

Besides all other considerations you would need one hell of an extension cord to power up the rest of the world.  Maybe Sarah Palin can see Russia from her house but how is she going to zap some bolts over there?  With a bolt box maybe?

Others can't wait and even kinda like Yogi Bear and all his friends in one of the great places on earth.  Yellowstone ain't no Craters of the Moon but not bad, not bad at all.

One of those doing for itself without waiting on Yellowstone to be eviscerated is Germany.

Last year the first German geothermal plant for commercial use went online and it now produces enough power for 6 thousand homes.

...The plant is capable of producing 3 megawatts, enough power for 6,000 and heating for 300 households. This kind of scale means the technology becomes very promising.

Umm, well, yeah.  Ain't nothing like the giant Geysers field but then nothing is today.

The Germans are real happy with deep geothermal wells needing advanced technology for low temperature waters.  Have big plans for the future.  Not as big as Steve's plans but beats the hell out of Al Gore dreaming of hotspots somewhere away from Tennessee.

BTW the French are doing EGS (Enhanced Geothermal Systems).  The Germans aren't near as I can make out, despite reports to the contrary.  Stolid Germans just don't seem to have the same fanciful dreams as French people.

Where is geothermal energy available?

Everywhere on planet earth.

Rest easy, Yogi Bear.  We don't need ya.

Best,  Terry

Originally posted to terryhallinan on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 10:21 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  What the Germans are doing... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, alizard

    Is finding pockets of naturally occurring hot water and pulling the energy from it.

    That works well in some parts of the world such as Iceland, Northern California....  But finding those pockets in other places is difficult.

    The really promising technology (IMHO) is drill-down hot rock thermal.  Basically just dig down far enough to where one finds naturally hot temps, send water down, and use the heated water/steam to run turbines.

    The French have a drill-down hot rock generation plant hooked to the grid and the technology is being actively pursued in other countries.

    Hot Rocks...

    The major problem at the moment seems to be economically drilling large diameter holes deep into the ground, an engineering problem that is most likely solvable.

    Google has just made a hunk of money available to update geothermal heat maps which are a few decades out of date.  And they are funding some of the sites under development.

    This stuff is exciting.  Drill some holes into the ground close to where the power is needed and you've got a free, non-polluting energy source.

    15 to 6. Pulled ahead as soon as the gate opened and never looked back....

    by BobTrips on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 11:09:44 AM PST

    •  Why do you think that? (0+ / 0-)

      finding those pockets in other places is difficult

      For sure, evidence on the surface of former vulcanology is the usual route to discovery as well as anomolies discovered in drilling for oil and gas. Live volcanoes are a bit tricky. :-)

      OIT's discovery of a geothermal resource consisted of the college president noticing snow melted faster on a facing hill.  Today the campus plans to go 100% green with that find.  Vermont has a "magic pond" where little or no ice forms during the winter.

      Interpreting geophysical data to determine the existence of suitable aquifers miles down in Germany is easy you think?

      In truth the technology is little more advanced than when the first oil well was discovered in Pennsylvania because oil was leaking onto the ground.

      A geology professor told his class long ago that those geophysicists have all their charts with squiggly line that don't mean much.  Turned out to mean a lot.  Science and technology do advance.

      CLONCURRY, QUEENSLAND: A potential clean energy basin has been discovered in one of the world's richest mineral resource regions in northwest Queensland.

      Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said the newly discovered Millungera Basin could hold geothermal, or hot rocks, energy potential to rival that of the Cooper Basin on the South Australian border.

      The underground resource, which geologists found using cutting-edge new technology, could mean cheaper energy for Queensland households and could also hold huge amounts of low emission coal seam gas.

      Bligh said the discovery, about 62 miles (100 km) east of Cloncurry, was one of the most exciting resource finds this century.

      "The discovery of a new, untapped basin of this size is rare anywhere in the world. For one to be found here, in the heart of north-west Queensland, is truly amazing.

      Might be smart to use Smart technology with all those squiggly lines that Dr. Allen didn't think much of long ago.

      BTW it's not hard to find old oil and gas wells at all.  Texas has leased a bunch of them for possible geothermal power production.

      Best,  Terry

      •  Why do I think that? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Because geothermal hot water doesn't exist everywhere.  You can find it only where it exists.

        Hot rock, on the other hand, exists everywhere.  

        Deeper in some places, which might make harvesting too expensive.  Or lacking the proper type of rock which can be fractured to create a lot of surface area which is another problem.

        Hot rock means that you don't have to discover naturally occurring underground streams which encounter geothermal heat, but you can drill the holes and supply the water.

        15 to 6. Pulled ahead as soon as the gate opened and never looked back....

        by BobTrips on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 11:48:06 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You a dowser, Bob? :-) (0+ / 0-)

          Quite seriously, we can only estimate what the ground is like underneath us.  Some seemingly great geothermal resources have turned out to be duds because of low permeability of the aquifers.

          But the crust of the earth is soaked with water as near as anyone can tell.

          Go down far enough and you will find hot rock but that is also probably true of water.

          Knowing that, by itself, is not good enough.  You need to know much more.

          That is why research is crucial.

          Too bad we have had anti-science idiots running the country.

          Claims that only California, Nevada, Germany and any other named places have adequate aquifers is specious IMHO.

          Best,  Terry

          •  No, not a dowser,... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            But I do know why we don't have a lot of hot ground water geothermal feeding into the grid right now.

            Hot damp soil doesn't provide large diameter pipes full of steam to drive turbines.  One has to find places where large underground streams encounter hot rock.  

            It's not like drilling a well where you can pump out a few hours supply of water and wait for more to seep in from the surrounding area.  We're talking a lot of water delivered to the site in a hurry.

            With research we'll find more places where there are adequately flowing underground streams.

            More promising, however, seems to be dry hot rock generation....

            15 to 6. Pulled ahead as soon as the gate opened and never looked back....

            by BobTrips on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 12:38:20 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  We disagree (0+ / 0-)

              Dry hot rock is a crock.  

              Habanero #1 initiated the development of the most advanced EGS project in the world in Australia's Outback.  If you read details of the project there never was any shortage of water but engineering a suitable aquifer is an entirely different matter.

              Decades ago, the U.S. initiated hot dry rock experimentation in New Mexico in a very large KGRA.  Current efforts build on that initial work, which went nowhere.

              It is ironic that one of the driest areas on earth is the scene of the most advanced "hot dry rock" project that uses prodigious amounts of water because, like the little kid sang about his boomerang, the water don't come back.

              Am I certain that HDR or EGS is very longterm?  Of course not but I have already been waiting a very long time for progress.

              Why isn't conventional geothermal progress more advanced?

              Misplaced priorities, adverse tax policies, ignorance, disinformation, etc.

              There are people making great progress with far poorer assets than this country.  Even the French have taken some time out from nuking the planet to do some advanced work while our DOE was not long ago trying to zero out even pitiful funding of research.

              Best,  Terry


              •  Well, we do disagree... (0+ / 0-)

                You and me/geologists.

                Having a lot of water underneath all our feet is magic thinking.  Conventional geothermal is not more advanced because places where lots of water and hot rock meet are relatively scarce.  We see conventional geothermic in places like Iceland because that's one place where it happens.

                And, yes, there was an attempt to develop hot rock geothermal in New Mexico some years back.  Problem was, the rock they found was not hot enough to create significant power with the turbines of the time.  People are now back at those holes with newer technology to see what they can pull out.

                Years ago we weren't worried about global warming and had zillions of cheap coal on hand to create very affordable electricity.  Times have changed.

                Perhaps you didn't read the page I linked above.

                The French have a hot rock geothermal plant on line at Soultz.  Only 1.5 mW, but proof of concept.  

                And most of the water comes back as in any closed loop thermal generation system.  

                15 to 6. Pulled ahead as soon as the gate opened and never looked back....

                by BobTrips on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 01:38:39 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Should we match experts? (0+ / 0-)

                  You and me/geologists.

                  For openers, my sister is a geologist and she thinks you're an idiot. :-)

                  Years ago we weren't worried about global warming and had zillions of cheap coal on hand to create very affordable electricity

                  And it was then B. C. McCabe brought in The Geysers.  How do you explain that, Bob?

                  Take care, Bob.  I would love to discuss matters further but there is no point at all when you diss people who have spent their lives in the field.

                  Best,  Terry

                  •  You sure you're asking your sister the right ... (0+ / 0-)


                    Ask her: "Can we just drill down anywhere and hit massive amounts of steam?".

                    Because that's what you're arguing.

                    The ask her "Is the hot rock geothermal plant at Soultz real, or is France lying?".

                    Because if it's real then "dry hot rock is crap" is incorrect.

                    BTW, you always run away from discussions when people disagree with you?

                    15 to 6. Pulled ahead as soon as the gate opened and never looked back....

                    by BobTrips on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 04:35:33 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I always ask people the right questions (0+ / 0-)

                      I haven't yet actually told my sister that BobTrips is an idiot but I am sure she will provide her professional opinion that BobTrips is an idiot if I tell her that BobTrips is an idiot.

                      You see, Bob, this world is full of of experts with all manner of opinions.  I have discussed matters with geologists, with engineers, with hydrologists, even with bankers and investment advisers.

                      In my youngest years we got water from a hot spring that is oddly called the Hallinan Hot Spring. That spring marks the southern boundary of a vast geothermal resource known as the Crump Geyser drilled in the 1950's by geothermal pioneer B. C. McCabe that will be developed any day now.  Any day for 50 years it will be developed but not today.

                      And you tell me that you and all the geologists know all about that geothermal stuff and that I know nothing.

                      Umm, yeah, OK.

                      What's to discuss?

                      I would rather discuss geothermal energy because it has been a large part of my life.  Not so anxious to discuss me and how I don't know what you and all the geologists know.  I don't think you know everything and I am inclined to think not all geologists, including my sister, think you do.  

                      Best,  Terry

                      •  Well, let's summarize: (0+ / 0-)
                        1. Terry's sister thinks Bob is an idiot.

                        However Terry has yet to discuss Bob with his sister so we are led to believe that Terry's sister has no opinion one way or another about Bob.  That does tend to bring Terry's credibility into question.

                        1. Terry thinks that hot rock geothermal is a "crock".

                        However there is at least one hot rock thermal plant in operation and supplying power to the grid.

                        1. Terry thinks that one can drill anywhere and produce usable geothermal steam because "the crust of the earth is soaked with water".

                        However we just don't see people sticking holes in the ground and pulling out usable steam.  They have to find those "special places" where adequate amounts of water flow rapidly enough to create volume.  We know that one of the problems with conventional geothermal is the cost of dry holes.

                        1. Finally Terry has shown himself to be an unpleasant person given to name calling when disagreed with.

                        I can't dispute that one.  Guess I'll have to settle for three out of four....

                        15 to 6. Pulled ahead as soon as the gate opened and never looked back....

                        by BobTrips on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 06:07:35 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

  •  Geothermal should be mandatory in the midwest and (0+ / 0-)

    most suburban homes.  It pays for itself in about 7 years.  The energy savings is life long.  I think a federal mandate with tax benefits over 7 years would be the best way to make it happen.

    •  I think you're talking about ground heat ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, alizard, boji

      assisted heat pumps.

      Not about using geothermal heat to produce electricity.

      15 to 6. Pulled ahead as soon as the gate opened and never looked back....

      by BobTrips on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 11:21:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

        •  OK, thought so... (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RunawayRose, alizard, jabney, ibonewits

          Ground heat assisted heat pumps are a great idea whose time seems to have come.

          One solution for our energy needs and for our current financial crisis might be to make low interest loans available for installation of these puppies.

          We could cut our energy needs - the most efficient way of getting coal out of our mix.  Less electricity to run air exchange heat pumps or electric heaters.

          It would also cut down our need to import petroleum to make fuel oil for those who current heat with oil.

          And we could put a lot of "working people" to work drilling holes in the ground and hooking up the equipment.

          There's an interesting housing development in Canada where they put heat collectors (loops of black plastic pipe) on tops of the garages and pump heat into the ground during  the summer.  Then in the winter they use that stored heat to boost the performance of the heat pumps.

          15 to 6. Pulled ahead as soon as the gate opened and never looked back....

          by BobTrips on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 11:39:24 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The Seminary in Chelsea in NYC (0+ / 0-)

            drilling down to warm ground water like others have done is seeking to use direct heat rather than generating power.  In many places the heated water from power plants is used for many purposes, including heating buildings, rather than killing fish.

            Best,  Terry

            •  Good idea, but limited to specific areas... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Where there is hot ground water to be used.

              Iceland does a lot of this.  But Iceland is fairly unique.

              15 to 6. Pulled ahead as soon as the gate opened and never looked back....

              by BobTrips on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 12:18:59 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Nearly everyone can use ground heat. Our local (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                alizard, ibonewits

                YMCA, think recreation center, put in geothermal heat pumps, and it heats its pool for the cost of running some fans.  The entire energy bill for the facility is less than my house.

                Another area around a cheap golf course did all of their units with geothermal heat pumps.  They pay 15-20 a month in heating costs in norther Iowa, basically on the Mn border.

                With the right policies in place, we can get people to work and stop buying oil.  

  •  Yellowstone is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the biggest dome volcano on the continent. Trust me, you couldn't exterminate her! (Would that you could!)

    This is non-destructive, non-carbon releasing power.

    •  About 3,000 km to NYC... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Less to Houston and LA.

      HVDC transmission lines lose about 1% per 1,000 km.

      If Yellowstone geothermal was our only option we could hook it up.

      15 to 6. Pulled ahead as soon as the gate opened and never looked back....

      by BobTrips on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 11:56:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oops... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I think that should be about 3% per 1,000 km.

        Plus a 1% loss at each end for adjusting voltages.

        Nonetheless, if all we had was Yellowstone we could do it.  We'd have to generate an extra 10% over what we needed in order to feed the loss monster....

        15 to 6. Pulled ahead as soon as the gate opened and never looked back....

        by BobTrips on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 12:21:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  One could do Old Faithful Some Bad Hurt (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      had they a mind too.

      The saga of Gila boraxobius is instructive.

      Like the humongous fungus that can polish off a pine tree for breakfast, Gila boraxobius is one tough mother. Both live in splendid isolation in the vast empty desert of southeastern Oregon where city folk don't often venture.

      Though Gila is only a dwarf minnow living in splendid isolation in the toxic waters of Borax Lake, he is far mightier than the largest living organism on earth.  Gila whupped the giant oil company, Chevron, that plays a geothermal company on TV. Gila sent the dumbo off to foreign climes forevermore when it messed with his hot lake.  Oregon then banned all geothermal development on all federal lands in Oregon.

      Times have changed a mite.  Geothermal power is no longer frowned on so much in Oregon.  Good Gila has his hot lake yet methinks.  Some of us like tough little guys and we don't need his lake.

      Best,  Terry

  •  Uhm, yea okay, if this involves drilling (0+ / 0-)

    into the ground in Yellowstone... aren't we sort begging for a great way to end global warming?
    But, not in a good way?
    Maybe, some place a little less likely to go boom in the next few thousand years or so. 'Kay?

    To have faith in the power of a human being is no crime. The crime is to have no faith in your fellow human being.

    by RElland on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 11:58:22 AM PST

    •  Not to worry (0+ / 0-)

      We won't be developing Yellowstone for geothermal power.

      Don't need it.

      Not terribly likely that North America would be destroyed by the Yellowstone supervolcano because of drilling.  Volcanoes don't care much about the pitiful efforts of mere mortals.  Mud volcanoes seem to but that is a whole 'nother story.

      Best,  Terry

  •  Yeah, these idiots (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    can tap Old Faithful and put up their Oil Wells all throughout the rest of the park, not to mention opening up mining of all the various minerals that are abundant there.

    Take it from one who lives 80 miles from Yellowstone and drives to or through there very often, they will have to run their bulldozers and oil rigs right over the top of me if they do this.  By the way, they have been trying to tear up Yellowstone and sell off "ranch sites" and "hunting lodges" for the wealthy for more than 30 years.  They want it bad.  We in the West, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, have been fighting this every time it rears it's stupid ugly head and it usually gets NO media attention at all.

    *the blogger formerly known as shirlstars

    by Shirl In Idaho on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 12:17:14 PM PST

    •  In Some Ways Your Own Craters of the Moon (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      is even more spectacular than Yellowstone.

      Lots of wonderful places available in this grand land but there are also huge resources that can be developed if we just will.

      I take exception to any claim drilling for fossil fuels is comparable to geothermal power development.

      One can destroy the planet, the other save it.

      Best,  Terry

  •  Geothermal in Hawaii (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    We have a moderately successful geothermal operation here on the Big Island, Puna Geothermal Venture.  This is not without risks and has generated some controversy over the years, the largest involving managing the release of hydrogen sulphide gas, which builds  up in the geothermal reservoir(s).

    Generate power is sold to the local utility, HELCO, for "avoided cost", that is, the cost HELCO would have incurred to generate the same power using fossil fuels.  This is good for PGV but not so good for consumers, and we hope to see this model changed someday.

    "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin

    by Mr Tentacle on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 01:22:53 PM PST

    •  Puna Geothermal (0+ / 0-)

      There are three types of power-generating plants: dry steam, flash steam and binary cycle. Dry steam plants, first used in Italy more than 100 years ago, route the steam directly to a power plant to produce electricity. Dry steam plants are used in places such as The Geysers in California, where steam is close to the surface. Flash steam power plants cause the fluid to rapidly vaporize, driving turbines that in turn drive a generator. Binary-cycle plants are similar and the most advanced. Their closed-loop circulation system means that no excess gases or fluids reach the open air. PGV’s power plant utilizes the closed-loop binary system.

      So how come a closed-loop binary system has hydrogen sulfide emissions?

      This is an older plant that was taken over by Ormat.  Ormat has taken over operation of other geothermal plants and had no easy task in rectifying problems.  The Momotombo plant in Nicaragua was a disaster from mismanagement when Ormat got it and Ormat has been under threat recently of confiscation.  I don't suppose that has encouraged them to expend funds.

      I was in the middle of  The Geysers dry steam field many years ago.  The stench of hydrogen sulfide was overpowering.  Copper was devoured like termites eating old wood.  I could see a farm house in the distance.  I imagine any survivors were not happy campers.  Hopefully things have improved.

      Any such development has its problems.  I wondered when you mentioned the hydrogen sulfide problem if the plant was not a flash plant.  Those can still have problems with emissions but a modern binary power plant shouldn't.

      Best,  Terry

      •  H2S (0+ / 0-)

        So how come a closed-loop binary system has hydrogen sulfide emissions?

        My understanding it that due to the geology it is surpassingly difficult to seal the supply and injection wells.  

        There was some issue back when one of the supply wells was drilled that caused a fairly significant unplanned release and that has colored pretty much all public discussion of PGV ever since.

        "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin

        by Mr Tentacle on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 05:47:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Interesting (0+ / 0-)

          My understanding it that due to the geology it is surpassingly difficult to seal the supply and injection wells.  

          There was some issue back when one of the supply wells was drilled that caused a fairly significant unplanned release and that has colored pretty much all public discussion of PGV ever since.

          Could be that there are significant issues peculiar to that one particular area or, more likely I would guess, to faulty drilling.

          The famed Blue Lagoon in Iceland:


          was not planned but worked out rather well.

          In Indonesia some wildcat drilling apparently for oil or gas (I had seen reports that it was meant for mining geothermal heat but God only knows what the idiots intended) didn't work so well:


          At least a dozen villages were drowned by a mud volcano that seems to have been initiated by careless drilling.  Some efforts to plug the monster took on comic dimensions were the disaster not so tragic (large steel balls were dropped down the throat of the volcano to attempt to stanch the eruption, some talked about bottling the vast flow of mud for baths and facials).

          Always risk as well as opportunity when you are working on the frontiers of science and technology.

          Redevelopment of one abandoned site in  The Geysers field has led to problems:

          The two-and-a-half-hour meeting, held at Cobb's Little Red Schoolhouse, brought a representative from Bottle Rock Power Plant face-to-face with nearly three dozen annoyed neighbors, who said they've been putting up with noise, speeding trucks, accumulated garbage, impacted water wells and other environmental issues for years, well before the plant reopened in March of 2007.

          That is nothing compared to the more fundamental threat of geothermal development to Visayans in the Philippines:

          "The Visayans would naturally be mesmerized dreaming of having around more ‘RORO’ boats, fast crafts, modern ports and airports, linking bridges and mega malls, blondes, tourists in topless suits...

          Best,  Terry

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