As the reality of climate crisis sets in and as more and more people experience it first-hand, convincing people of a future doomsday scenario becomes less necessary. The present is already bad enough.
What Will It Take for Geothermal To Heat Up the Renewable Energy Sector?
Geothermal energy’s potential contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is enormous. Just 0.1 percent of the Earth’s heat could provide enough energy to power the world for two million years. And every gigawatt of energy from geothermal resources offsets approximately 380 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
Yet geothermal energy is responsible for less than 1% of the total electricity generation in the United States.
So why has it been so slow to tap into this vast and essentially inexhaustible resource? And how might that soon change?
Audubon: An Abundance of American Robins
Stuck inside her Brooklyn apartment in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, artist Mayuko Fujino had one connection to the outside world: a single window that looked out on a neighbor’s yard. It was March, then April, and Fujino thought it was about time to see an American Robin. She spotted sparrows, pigeons, cardinals—but none of the robins that usually appear in spring.
Bulletin: Battle over geothermal project pits tiny toad against renewable energy
Dixie Meadows is a smudge of vibrant green in an otherwise muted pink and tan landscape. To travel there from Fallon, Nevada, the nearest city, one must first drive 40 miles east on US Route 50, a stretch of highway known as the “loneliest road in America,” and then another 40 miles north on a gravel road into Dixie Valley, a low-lying plain between the Stillwater Range and the Clan Alpine Mountains. Desert shrubs extend as far as the eye can see, until a shimmer of water appears on the horizon—the first sign of a desert oasis. Fed by a series of over 100 seeps and springs, these 760 lush acres at the foot of the Stillwater mountains encompass the entire global range of the endangered Dixie Valley toad. They are also a “surface expression,” as geologists put it, of an as-yet untapped geothermal energy source.
Wearing a straw cowboy hat and using a wooden staff as a walking stick, Patrick Donnelly leads the way into Dixie Meadows’ shoulder-high reeds, where we hope to find the smallest of the western toads. As the Great Basin director of the Center for Biological Diversity, Donnelly campaigned to get the Dixie Valley toad listed as endangered, which the Fish and Wildlife Service did in April on an emergency basis for only the second time in the past 20 years. Donnelly has also worked tirelessly to halt the progress of the largest threat to the Dixie Valley toad and the green oasis it calls home: the Dixie Meadows Geothermal Project. Donnelly is concerned that if the geothermal project proceeds as planned, it will disturb or even dry up the series of hot springs that have created this verdant oasis.
The geothermal moonshot
Many experts believe the future of geothermal energy lies in enhanced geothermal systems, which lack some of the natural characteristics needed to produce electricity from the Earth’s heat but may be used as geothermal energy sources with the right human interventions. Proper development of enhanced systems would drastically expand the potential for geothermal energy’s role in the US energy system.