Geothermal energy (heat from the earth) taps the volcanically-heated water and steam that occurs naturally in certain areas in Hawaii, particularly the younger islands of Maui and Hawaii where volcanic activity has been most recent.
Three things are needed to produce geothermal energy: heat; a working fluid such as water or steam; and permeable rocks which allow the working fluid to move within the geothermal reservoir, picking up heat which can be brought to the surface through a geothermal well. The Kilauea East Rift Zone, thus far the only region developed for geothermal energy in Hawaii, has all three of these attributes.
Hawaii’s geothermal resource is “hydrothermal,” or water dominated, due to ample seawater and rainwater permeating the island’s lava foundation. In some parts of the world, such as The Geysers in California, geothermal reservoirs produce dry steam. In other places, such as the desert western United States, techniques for extracting the heat using “enhanced geothermal systems” (EGS) are being tested.
For additional information:
- Hawaii Groundwater & Geothermal Resources Center
- Final Report: Magnetotelluric and Audio Magnetotelluric Surveys on Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Mauna Kea East Flank (December 2016)
- Hawaii State Energy Office Publications (Geothermal tab)
- University of Hawaii Electronic Library geothermal archives
- U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Office
- National Geothermal Data System
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory Geothermal Technologies
- Geothermal Resources Council
- Geothermal Energy Association
- International Geothermal Association
- Puna Geothermal Venture
For more information on Hawaii’s energy sector and progress in the areas of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean transportation, download the 2020 Hawaii’s Energy Facts & Figures (PDF).
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