Image Credit: Google Green Blog
According to the Google Green Blog, a recently completed project to update the Geothermal Map of North America by SMU Geothemal Laboratory (supported by Google.org), estimates that the technical potential of geothermal energy exceeds 2,980,295 megawatts. More details can be found on the blog here.
Google has also worked to develop this information as a layer in Google Earth. The file can be downloaded from a link towards the bottom of this page. The map shows Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) Potential from depths from 3km to 6.5km and excludes protected lands such as National Parks.
An important note: I am not in any way endorsing EGS. Messing with the Earth at big scales makes me nervous, since we have so little information on the potential impact of our actions. I live in earthquake territory. Also, I read this alarming article in the New York Times a couple years ago. An excerpt:
All seemed to be going well — until Dec. 8, 2006, when the project [in Basel, Switzerland] set off an earthquake, shaking and damaging buildings and terrifying many…
As early as this week, though, an American start-up company, AltaRock Energy, will begin using nearly the same method to drill deep into ground laced with fault lines in an area two hours’ drive north of San Francisco.
…For geothermal energy to be used more widely, engineers need to find a way to draw on the heat at deeper levels percolating in the earth’s core.
Some geothermal advocates believe the method used in Basel, and to be tried in California, could be that breakthrough. But because large earthquakes tend to originate at great depths, breaking rock that far down carries more serious risk, seismologists say. Seismologists have long known that human activities can trigger quakes, but they say the science is not developed enough to say for certain what will or will not set off a major temblor.
It is well worth reading the entire article. And it is well worth remembering that just because it is called “clean” energy does not mean that there are no potential hazards associated with the energy production and use.
Image credit: SEBAL North America
According to a recent press release, scientists at SEBAL North America, located in Davis, California, are tracking real-time consumption of water by crops, cities, and natural ecosystems using satellites.
This new technology, applicable to water management needs globally, reduces substantial uncertainties in traditional approaches, greatly increasing confidence in water management decisions. Grant Davids, the company’s president, notes the broad range of applications of SEBAL for water managers. “Water consumption is usually the most important yet often most poorly quantified water management parameter. More accurate and spatially discrete estimates of consumptive use lead to improved water management over a wide range of conditions, from local to basin scales and from historical analysis for planning to real-time operations decision support.”
The company will be providing weekly maps showing water use for the Central Valley. The company also makes image overlays that can be opened in Google Earth to allow users to look more closely at water use in specific areas. Maps and data can be found on the SEBAL website.
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The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) has released a study, conducted on their behalf by Tetra Tech, which examined the effects of climate change on probable future water supply and demand in the United States. One of the main findings of the study is that one-third of the U.S. counties (> 1,100 counties) will likely face water shortages by 2050.
The full report is available as a PDF here.
The Water Supply Sustainbility Index developed by Tetra Tech for the report can be viewed interactively in Google Earth – a link to the data can be found on the NRDC’s website here. You can also turn on and off markers for which counties are top producers of different crops to get a sense of the potential impact of the water shortages. It looks like this (the green dots indicate that the county is one of the top 100 counties for producing vegetables):
The NRDC also released a one-page overview of water shortage risk and crop value in at-risk counties by state (as a PDF here). According to the overview of California’s risk due to climate change:
Percent of CA counties at risk of water shortages: 83%
Total number of CA counties at risk: 48
Total number of CA counties at extreme risk: 19
Total number of CA counties at high risk: 17
Total number of CA counties at moderate risk: 12
The value of all the crops being producing in at-risk CA counties (in $1,000s): $21,585,354
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