Visualizing Patterns of Geothermal Research

The Geothermal Data Repository gives you access to submit and view all geothermal research funded by the US Department of Energy. Our project is a tool that helps you understand where researchers have already studied geothermal energy resources and guides you to answer the question: where should we look for more? Find out more.

Explore the Map

What do we want to accomplish?

Advance geothermal energy

We want this tool to accelerate research and development of geothermal resources in the US. Geothermal energy is a renewable energy resource with a lot of untapped potential, which this tool can help unlock.

Improve access to research

The Geothermal Data Repository is a great way to share information. But, we think it can be better. With this tool, you can visualize research by location and use multiple filter options to hone in on the information you need.

Identify research potential

By mapping submissions to the Geothermal Data Repository with a few other important variables—like Enhanced Geothermal favorability across the US—this tool helps you see where more research might have a big impact.

What is our project?

The US Department of Energy (DOE) funds research and undertakes its own research projects. In May 2011, DOE committed to publicly sharing the results of agency-funded research in its strategic plan. This was part of the larger Open Government Initiative to “make energy data transparent, participatory, and collaborative” (Open Government Plan for 2016-2018).

Making research and data available for public use is a powerful tool to speed up progress. When scientists have access to existing research, it can open the door to new discoveries. Private companies can avoid the mistakes of others with access to their data. Governments can craft good policy if they have access to all the information. Open data empowers people to create new knowledge and come up with clever innovations much faster than they would happen if the information was not freely available.

To make good on its commitment, DOE established the Geothermal Data Repository (GDR). The GDR is a searchable, online database of geothermal research and data funded by DOE. Anyone can submit to the GDR and use the information available there. With so much geothermal data and research available, the GDR helps tap the potential of this important renewable energy source.

Explore the GDR

However, the power of the GDR to accelerate the development of geothermal resources is not yet maximized. Currently, the GDR interface allows you to do a simple keyword search for research submissions or to filter submissions using four main categories: Direct Use, EGS (Enhanced Geothermal Systems), FORGE (Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy), and Hydrothermal.

With these tools, finding information you need can be a frustrating process, and the research you are looking for could remain just as hidden as it was before the GDR existed. Further, with patterns of submissions invisible in the repository, you are left without context for where doing more research or collecting more data might have the biggest impact.

In order for the GDR to help get more geothermal energy, faster, you need a way to drill down to the research that is relevant to you and find the holes in what we already know about geothermal resources in the US. Essentially, you need to quickly answer the questions “where do we know there is geothermal energy?” and “where should we look for more?”.

We built an interactive online map that displays the location of all submissions to the GDR. Our project helps connect you to the information you need by showing you the location of past research, giving you new filtering tools to hone in on exactly the right resource, and letting you seamlessly access GDR submissions directly from the map. The map, with interactive data layers, gives context to information in the GDR so you can easily see hotspots of existing research as well as areas where new research could have the biggest impact. The map will enhance the power of the GDR by making it more transparent, participatory, and collaborative, and will help the effort to harness more geothermal energy in the US.

Keep reading to learn how to use the map!

How do I use the map?

Let’s get you oriented to the map. There are three major data sources:

  1. Geothermal Data Repository Submissions: these are the data you will see when you first get to the map. Each submission is represented by a point, but the points will be clustered together at first. If you zoom in, they will separate into individual points; zoom out and they will re-cluster. You can also toggle clustering manually with a button on the left.
  2. Enhanced Geothermal Potential: to see these data, you will have to toggle the layer on in the top left corner of the map. These data cover the continental US, and represent how favorable the conditions in a given location are for Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS). Areas are rated on a scale of 1 (most favorable) to 5 (least favorable), with 999 representing an area that hasn’t been assessed.
  3. Research Potential Index: to see these data, you will have to toggle the layer on in the top left corner of the map. These data cover the continental US in a hexagonal grid, each hex area equal to 2500 square miles, and represent the potential impact of future research in that area. Areas are rated on a scale of 0 (low impact potential) to 1 (high impact potential). To learn more about how we calculated this index, read our methodology.

As you explore each layer of data, note that clicking on a point or an area will cue a popup dialog box. This box will tell you more about the individual piece of data you are looking at. Importantly, in the popup for GDR submissions, you can click on the submission URL to seamlessly access the GDR page for that submission. Try it!

If you want to find a specific submission to the GDR, you can use a variety of filtering tools:

  1. Search: Most simply, this is the search bar in the top right of the map. The map displays GDR submissions by location, so if you are looking for information related to a specific geographic area, simply search for that area in the search bar, and the map will zoom you in to that location.
  2. Topic Filters: On the center left side of the map, there is a button labeled “Filter submissions by type”. Selecting it drops down a list of different filters for you to use. These filters largely correspond to those available on the GDR itself, but we’ve added a few extra ones that might be useful. Selecting a filter will make only those GDR submissions that fit the criteria visible on the map. To learn more about the filters, read our methodology.
  3. Time Slider: In the bottom left side of the map, there is a tool that allows you to filter GDR submissions based on time. Select and drag the circles at either end of the timeline to modify the time period of GDR submissions visible, and select the play button to animate visible GDR submissions through time.

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What can we learn from this?

We hope that you use this map to answer your own questions, whether that be finding what you need from the Geothermal Data Repository, exploring where you might want to start a research project or initiate exploration, or something we haven’t even thought of. But, from exploring the map, we’ve answered one big question of our own. Based on our research impact potential data, areas of potentially high research impact exist across the country: notably in the north and central US, but with pockets of potential in the Gulf, Midwest, and along the eastern seaboard. Investment in geothermal research in these areas could massively expand geothermal energy resources, and increase the share of energy production from geothermal in the US.

What’s next? First, the research impact potential data should be fine-tuned by incorporating more factors into the index. (To learn how we calculated the index, read our methodology). By incorporating more factors into the index, we can make sure that we are accurately identifying where to invest in more research, maximizing its usefulness to the GDR users like you. Second, we think that our map should be included on the Geothermal Data Repository’s main web page. These things will help improve access to research, help geothermal professionals identify and explore locations of potentially high impact research, together accelerating the research and development of geothermal resources in the US.