Department of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
DOE:Barbara Farhar
For Immediate Release: April 14, 2003

BLM: Paul Dunlevy,

Feds Identify Opportunities for Potential Geothermal Development on Public Lands
Report findings will help to prioritize land-use planning activities

WASHINGTON -- Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management Rebecca Watson and Assistant Secretary of Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Garman today announced the availability of a new report that identifies opportunities for near-term development of geothermal energy in the West.

The report announced today was undertaken in response to a task developed from the President's national policy. The report, titled "Opportunities for Near-Term Geothermal Development on Public Lands in the Western United States," was prepared by the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The report focuses on areas of the West with the best opportunities and highest potential for development of geothermal energy.

"The Interior Department is working with DOE to locate and identify sources of geothermal energy potential on public lands," Watson said. "This report will help us to make important decisions for the development of domestic sources of energy."

Geothermal is a clean domestic energy source that is available 24 hours a day. The average geothermal power plant produces electricity 90 percent of the time, compared with 65 percent to 75 percent for coal and nuclear-powered plants. Although, by itself, geothermal energy will not replace fossil fuels as the major energy source in the United States, it can contribute in a significant way to the nation's energy mix.

The BLM and NREL used Geographic Information System (GIS) data to assess geothermal energy potential on BLM lands in the West. The assessment identifies the BLM's planning units with the highest potential for developing geothermal resources. The assessment of these high potential areas focuses on BLM's knowledge of, and experience with, geothermal resources in western states. The BLM experts identified 35 top-pick sites in 18 planning units throughout six western states that have high potential for near-term geothermal development.

California - 9 Top Picks          Oregon - 7 Top Picks
New Mexico - 3 Top Picks     Utah - 3 Top Picks
Nevada - 10 Top Picks           Washington - 3 Top Picks

"These areas that are high in geothermal sources will provide a unique opportunity for development of clean geothermal power that will help to create jobs and provide for rural economic development," Watson said. "Developing our geothermal sources will also help to reduce America's dependency on foreign sources of energy."

"Top Picks" refers to those areas selected by BLM experts that have been defined as having the greatest geothermal potential for rapid development in terms of power generation. "Near-Term" development means that geothermal potential is high and conditions are favorable so that power generation could be developed within the next 2 years. Currently more than 2/3 of the "top pick" areas are addressed in existing BLM Land Use Plans. Once environmental analysis is complete, these areas would be ready for the geothermal industry to develop.

The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management and the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory formed a partnership back in June 2001 to conduct an assessment of access to renewable energy resources on BLM-managed federal lands in the western United States.

Assistant Secretary Watson noted that federal land managers will use the report in prioritizing the development and use of geothermal energy resources on public lands. The report can also be used by the public and land managers in tandem with the recently released Energy Policy and Conservation Act report that was requested by Congress. The EPCA report assesses access to nonrenewable energy (oil and gas) on public lands.

"These reports identify areas of high potential for energy. And, whether a project develops geothermal or fossil fuel resources, energy needs to get from where the energy is generated to the consumer," Watson said. "Land-use planners can use these reports to locate transmission corridors where they are most needed. This helps reduce impacts to the environment and is more efficient."

Note to Editors: A copy of the report can be obtained from the Internet at or by writing to:

Barbara C. Farhar, Ph.D.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
1617 Cole Blvd.
Golden, CO 80401



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