Can we use the heat from Yellowstone for energy?

Geothermal energy (heat energy from the Earth's interior), is used to generate electricity in a variety of places throughout the world. Although Yellowstone and its surroundings are a significant geothermal resource, the Park itself is off limits to development. Because geothermal developments often cause a decrease in flow of nearby hot springs and other geothermal features (like geysers), it is questionable whether anyone could get permission to develop geothermal energy in the region outside the park.

There are other natural heat sources in the United States that are being used for geothermal energy. In California, about 4-5 GW of electricity is generated at power plants at The Geysers, Salton Sea, Coso, Casa Diablo, and other geothermal systems. This is enough to provide energy for several million people. There are also geothermal power plants in Nevada, Utah, and Hawaii.

Related Content

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Image: Old Faithful Erupting
May 10, 2017

Despite two centuries of scientific study, basic questions persist about geysers—why do they exist? What determines their behavior?

Thumbnail image of report cover
April 11, 2014

A newly published scientific report on the geology and hydrology in the area around Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park includes suggestions on how to avoid harming the unique hydrothermal (hot water) features during maintenance of nearby park roads, utilities, and historic buildings.

September 30, 2010

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. -- A new sensor network installed in Yellowstone National Park this summer will provide scientists and the public near “real-time” data on what’s happening in one of the nation’s most active geyser basins.

May 30, 2008

New research suggests that how often Old Faithful and other Yellowstone geysers erupt may depend on annual rainfall patterns.

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boiling water and white steam blasting up out of erupting geyser with snow on the ground
2017 (approx.)

Old Faithful Geyser erupts on a clear winter day in Yellowstone National Park

column of white water and steam shooting up out of the ground. blue skies.
2015 (approx.)

Great Fountain Geyser erupting in Yellowstone National Park on a clear day.

steam rising from a geyser on a quiet river bank
2015 (approx.)

Riverside Geyser in Yellowstone National Park

erupting geyser with rainbow in midground. tall trees in background
2014 (approx.)

eruption of Lone Star Geyser, Yellowstone National Park

January 22, 2014

Public Lecture on Yellowstone Volcano by Jake Lowenstern at Menlo Park, CA on January 23, 2014. The Q&A at the end of the talk can be found on the original source video (Source URL).

Image: Geothermal Plant
November 24, 2009

A geothermal power plant at The Geysers near Santa Rosa, California. The USGS researches and assesses geothermal resources.

video thumbnail: Yes! Yellowstone is a Volcano (Part 1 of 3)
January 29, 2009

USGS Scientist-in-Charge of Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, Jake Lowenstern, answers
the following questions to explain volcanic features at Yellowstone: "How do we know Yellowstone is a
volcano?", "What is a Supervolcano?", "What is a Caldera?","Why are there geysers at Yellowstone?",
and "What are the other geologic hazards in Yellowstone?"

View Parts 1, 2, and 3 of this video.

Scenery: Valley surrounded by forested mountains. Multiple wisps of steam rise from the valley floor at various locations.
2006 (approx.)

Aerial view of Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park

Image: Ear Spring, Yellowstone National Park

USGS scientist Dr. David P. Krabbenhoft sampling Ear Spring, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, for dissolved mercury species. Old Faithful is erupting in the background.