The Australian Government today announced that it will provide $50 million to the geothermal industry to help it begin making the technology viable for baseload energy production.

The Australian Government’s Geoscience Australia organization has mapped the nation’s geothermal energy, using temperature recordings from decades of drilling by energy and exploration firms, sometimes to a depth of five kilometres. A total of 5,722 petroleum and mineral boreholes across Australia were used to generate the map. The scientists estimate that only one percent of the nation’s untapped geothermal energy could produce 26,000 years worth of clean electricity.

The Government’s geothermal drilling project will see different technologies used at various locations around Australia to try to determine the best technology for converting "hot rock" energy into electricity.

"We could now see Australia’s first commercially viable geothermal power plants in place within four to five years," said Resource Minister, Martin Ferguson.

The Australian Geothermal Energy Association has estimated that as much as $12 billion would need to be invested to develop the potential geothermal power, but added the cost of generating electricity would fall to acceptable levels by the time commercial projects were up and running.