Geothermal Education Office

UNITED STATES - The west coast boundary between the North American and Pacific plates is "sliding" along the San Andreas fault (many earthquakes but few volcanoes) from the Gulf of California up to northern California and subducting from the Cascade volcanoes north through the Aleutians. There are also volcanic hot spots under Yellowstone and Hawaii and intra-plate extension with hot springs in the Great Basin. California generates the most geothermal electricity with about 824 MWe at the Geysers (much less than its capacity, but still the world's largest developed field and one of the most successful renewable energy projects in history), 490 MWe in the Imperial Valley, 260 MWe at Coso, and 59 MWe at smaller plants. An additional 242 MWe are planned for operation by 2000. There are also power plants in Nevada (196 MWe now, 205 MWe more planned), Utah (31 MWe), and Hawaii (25 MWe). 75 MWe are planned in other states. Due to environmental advantages and low capital and operating costs, direct use of geothermal energy has skyrocketed to 3858 GWh/yr, including 300,000 geothermal heat pumps. In the western United States, hundreds of buildings are heated individually and through district heating projects (Klamath Falls, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; San Bernardino, California; and soon Mammoth Lakes and Bridgeport, California). Large greenhouse and aquaculture facilities in Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, and Utah use low-temperature geothermal waters, and onions and garlic are dried geothermally in Nevada.

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October 12, 1997
© 1997 Geothermal Education Office