Geothermal energy is a renewable energy source generated by the Earth's internal heat. The use and study of geothermal energy has been greatly improved since the 1990's. Supplying reusable energy for the increased worldwide energy demand, the use of geothermal energy does not require fossil fuel burning; therefore, present research of heat flow and future developments of geothermal energy will largely impact the many generations to come.
Most of the world's geothermal energy is concentrated along plate boundaries and hot spots. Some of the world's greatest geothermal energy producers include the United States, Italy, Japan, Indonesia, and New Zealand. Geothermal energy is used in these countries as large power plants, having temperatures of at least 150°C or 300°F. These power plants provide energy for thousands of people. Smaller uses of geothermal energy include powering businesses, homes, greenhouses, and fish hatcheries.
Students studying the Earth's heat follow the requirements for a Geophysics degree with an emphasis in Geothermal. The individual's interests and research help tailor the courses taken. The Geothermal Laboratory has national/international connections for research purposes. Dr. David Blackwell is one of the lead researchers in the Geothermal-Heat Flow field with approximately 40 years of experience.
Company requests for resource assessment of existing and exploration geothermal sites stimulate many short and long -term projects. Projects are primarily in the United States, but international research is completed as well.
Programs and Research currently in the Geothermal Lab:
Analysis and modeling of Geothermal Systems: The Basin and Range: primarily Dixie Valley, Nevada, The Geysers, California
Thermal modeling of oil and gas fields: Gulf of Mexico, New Mexico
Examination of Plate Tectonic Processes: Pacific Coast of United States, Canada, and Costa Rica
On-site Borehole Temperature-Depth logging and interpretation: Central and Western United States
Resource Assessment of existing Geothermal fields: Western United States, Italy, and Indonesia
Software available for use:
Kingdom Suite – Donated by IHS Energy
Petra - Donated by IHS Energy
Hampson-Russell - Geophysical software
EasyCore and EasyCopy by The EasyCopy Company
RokDoc by Ikon Science
Oasis Montaj – Geosoft Corporation
COMSOL Multiphysics software
Geocrack - A Coupled Fluid Flow/Heat Transfer/Rock Deformation Program
GM-SYS - Gravity/Magnetic Modeling
Golden Software Products
Suggested graduate courses with brief descriptions include:
5320 - DYNAMIC EARTH I. Studies the Earth's physical and chemical structure, its geologic evolution, as well as the development upon the theory of plate tectonics.
5384 - HYDROGEOLOGY. Introduction to the physical and chemical behavior of natural waters and the role of fluids in geologic processes.
5391 - POTENTIAL FIELD METHODS IN GEOPHYSICAL EXPLORATION. Emphasizes gravity and magnetic techniques to theorize geophysics, which covers heat flow, electrical methods, and application of hard- and soft-rock exploration.
5392 - INTRODUCTION TO SEISMOLOGY. Basic principles and theories of seismology.
6321 - DYNAMIC EARTH II. Studies modern methods of measuring geologic time. Examination of sedimentary, biological, and geochemical cycles, evolutionary patterns, and continental positions.
6338 - THERMODYNAMICS OF GEOLOGICAL PROCESSES. Application to the earth sciences, including igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary processes.
6375 - THEORY OF HEAT FLOW AND DIFFUSION. Heat transfer theory applied to the thermal field of the earth and terrestrial planets.
6376 - APPLICATION OF GEOPHYSICAL TECHNIQUES OF GEOTHERMAL EXPLORATION. Geophysical techniques with applications to geothermal exploration.
6392 - INTERIOR OF THE EARTH. Formation and thermal evolution of the Earth.
6394 - MATHEMATICAL METHODS OF GEOPHYSICS AND THEORETICAL SEISMOLOGY I. Field of studies, including viscoelastic materials, reciprocity, kinetic and dynamic source models, and matrix methods.