A History Of Geothermal Exploration In Washington

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Conference Paper: A History Of Geothermal Exploration In Washington

The presence of Mt. St. Helens and other Quaternary andesitic volcanoes and other indicators, e.g., both thermal and both mineral springs, in the Washington Cascades suggests that this area has good potential for geothermal resources. Exploration for geothermal resources has been conducted in the region since the early 1970s, with surge of interest and exploration activity in 1974 when the Federal Government developed a leasing program for its land. This surge was followed by a gradual decline in activity through the early 1980s. During the mid 1980s, most geothermal exploration programs were cancelled because of the decline in oil prices. Exploration activity did not pick up until 2007 when the price of crude oil started rising. The establishment of required energy portfolios has also increased interest in geothermal energy within the Washington Cascades. The development of binary technology for generating electricity has increased the potential geothermal resources that are available. Success in geothermal exploration in the Washington Cascades has been limited for several different reasons. One reason was a concern about competing against low cost electric power from the Bonneville Power Administration. Population growth and new industries have used up most of the surplus power so that this problem has largely disappeared. A second problem that has limited geothermal exploration in Washington has been the technical difficulty of working in the Cascade Mountains. A third problem has been a concern about gaining access to Federal land in the Cascades, primarily land administered by the U. S. Forest Service. Land use restrictions and other problems related to dealing with the Forest Service have discouraged many exploration companies. A fourth problem that has discouraged geothermal exploration in Washington has been that the state was at the fringe (of the main exploration and production activity) in California and Nevada. Thus, it has been more expensive to bring in contractors and get supplies.

D. H. Vice

GRC, 2010

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