Can we use the heat from Yellowstone for energy?

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Episode Number: 143

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Location Taken: US

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Welcome to CoreFacts, where we're always short on time and big on science. I'm Brian Campbell. Today's question is ...

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, 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. Typically, hot water or steam is tapped from a deep reservoir through a geothermal drill hole. The fluid is then expanded through a turbine to generate electricity. In California, there are about 4 to 5 GW of electricity 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 power plants in Nevada, Utah, and Hawaii. Geothermal power is also used in many others countries. The Geothermal Education Office has a good website with lots of information about geothermal energy, its uses, and the output of different geothermal systems. The U. S. Geological Survey also has an educational and well-illustrated booklet on geothermal energy.

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