New wind and geothermal resource maps unveiled at summit

RENO, Nev., Oct. 10, 2003 — New resource maps identifying the best locations in the western United States for the development of wind and geothermal energy plants were unveiled recently at the Western States Renewable Energy Summit in Reno, Nevada.

Two separate maps were released: the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Nevada State Office of Energy’s (NREL/NSOE) meso-scale wind resource map of Nevada which provides more detailed information on distribution of the wind energy resource than previously available; and geothermal resource maps for 13 western states, which provide not only the location of geothermal resources, but the temperature, best identified location for building power plants, as well as land ownership information.

Wind is recognized as the fastest growing source of new electricity in the world. Currently, wind is a $4.5 billion industry in the United States and over $30 billion globally. And, according to the American Wind Energy Association, 30-40% of the total investment in a wind project stays in the community where the project is located.

NREL estimates Nevada has almost 7000 Megawatts available for development, every MW equals a $1 million investment, of which, 30 percent contributes to the local economy. Current estimates indicate Nevada could realize over $2 billion in local economic activity if its wind resources are utilized.

The previous wind map used by Nevada was developed in 1987, and was based on old assumptions covering 15 miles per pixel; the new map is a on the scale of approximately 600 feet per pixel and incorporates advanced numerical computer modeling, geographic information systems and many more data sets to produce a much more comprehensive and accurate map.

The new meso-scale wind resource map will assist policy makers, developers, land-owners and others by facilitating the identification of the best wind resource areas for further evaluation and possible development.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s new geothermal resource maps show low- to moderate- and high-temperature geothermal energy resource locations in 13 western states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming).

The Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) produced the maps as part of DOE’s GeoPowering the West activity, supported by professional geologists and others from each of the states. These resource maps are a starting point for educating individuals, energy professionals, economic development associations, and businesses — about locating, developing and using potential geothermal energy resources.

With today’s technology, public and private investors can expand on the existing use of geothermal and wind energy to help meet increasing energy demands. Further development of our extensive domestic renewable resources will increase the nation’s energy security and diversify its portfolio of energy technologies.

Geothermal power plants in use are among the cleanest sources of electrical power available and are already having an impact in some states. On the island of Hawaii, 25 percent of its electrical supply comes from geothermal energy. In northern Nevada, 10 percent of the region’s electricity comes from geothermal sources, and its use is expected to increase. And, in California — 6 percent of its electrical supply comes from geothermal sources.

Geothermal energy is also used in surrounding states like Oregon, Utah and Idaho for power generation and space heating needs. Through these and other so-called direct use applications, geothermal energy currently provides about 600 megawatts of heat or roughly enough energy to heat and cool over 400,000 homes. Presently, this energy is used for agriculture, industrial processing, recreational pools and spas, space heating and in district heating, for example — where geothermal hot water is used to heat several greenhouses or aquaculture facilities.

Geothermal energy is literally heat from the earth. It is a clean, reliable, and sustainable source of energy. This “heat beneath our feet” in the western United States comes from underground reservoirs of steam and hot water and provides electricity and heat for thousands of homes and businesses.

Using Geographical Information System (GIS) technology, the INEEL prepared these maps to show areas with potential for geothermal electricity production and direct use — as well as known geothermal wells and springs, existing geothermal power plants and direct use applications, land ownership, and other information. The maps have also been consolidated into a western United States geothermal resources regional map to provide a broader view of regional potential for power and direct use applications.

GIS technology, using “layers” of digitized spatial information and linking databases, provides great flexibility in manipulating and presenting this information. This improved database allows for improved data visualization and analysis.

The regional geothermal resource map and the maps for each of the thirteen western states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming) are available on the Internet at and at

The INEEL is a science-based, multiprogram national laboratory dedicated to supporting the U.S. Department of Energy’s missions in environment, energy, science and national defense. The INEEL is operated for the DOE by Bechtel BWXT Idaho, LLC.