By Dan Shapley
U.S. explores new geothermal energy reserves across the West
The United States is poised to bark on a new era of domestic energy exploration deep underground in the American West -- but the goal is not a fossil fuel. It's the heat of the Earth itself. The Bureau of Land Management is working on a plan to find and tap heat for a new generation of geothermal power plants. The word "geothermal" has been commonly used to refer to another type of energy project closer to home. Virtually anyone can tap the nearly constant 55-degree temperature of the Earth just below the surface. Homes and businesses across America take advantage of that, piping water underground and back to provide a 55-degree base temperature indoors, to aid the cooling process in the summer and heating in the winter. Out West, deeper wells can tap much hotter reserves, which can quickly heat water to a boil to run turbines -- just as coal, oil and natural gas are used to run turbines to produce electricity in traditional power plants. If the unending heat reserves can be tapped -- without breaking the bank -- they offer a wealth of energy with barely a wisp of pollution, according to a story in the June 28 Rocky Mountain News.