Geothermal Resources

Geothermal energy is heat that has been generated and stored in the earth. Geothermal energy can be used for bathing, to generate electricity, and to heat buildings. It has the advantages of being an environmentally friendly, sustainable, and renewable form of energy.

Geothermal energy is generated in the layers of hot molten rock and magma present below the earth’s crust. Heat is produced in these layers from the continual decay of naturally radioactive materials such as uranium and potassium. In some locations, fractures in the crust allow heated fluids to rise closer to the surface, forming areas of elevated ground temperatures that can be tapped for geothermal energy. In other areas, the fractures extend to the surface allowing the heated water to discharge from geysers and hot springs. Geothermal energy cfan be harnessed to run turbines for electrical generation, to pipe hot water to buildings (direct use), and to support tourism.

Norris Hot Spring
Norris Hot Spring, Yellowstone National Park. [Credit: WSGS, 2010]

Currently, tourism is the primary use of geothermal energy in Wyoming. Geothermal features draw hundreds of thousands of tourists to Wyoming each year, allowing them to enjoy thermal springs in the state, primarily in Yellowstone National Park and Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis. Direct use of geothermal energy in some areas of the state heats buildings, fish hatcheries, and roadways.

The WSGS has prepared several publications about thermal springs and geothermal energy in Wyoming. Publications are available on the reports and maps pages. Other Wyoming geothermal data, including bottom hole temperatures from oil and gas wells, are available via the National Geothermal Data System.


Jim Stafford,