Geothermal Power: 6,442MW Under Development in 14 States

The United States continues to lead the world in geothermal energy capacity and growth, the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) said this week in a report that details gains and milestones over the past year. 

Geothermal energy supplies a total installed capacity of 3,152.72 MW to the United States, in states including Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. 

The report identifies up to 6,442.9 MW of new geothermal power plant capacity under development in the United States in those states as well as Oregon, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi. This pushes the prospects of nearly 10 GW of installed capacity in the coming years over a broad section of the nation. At that level, geothermal power will satisfy the needs of over 10 million people in 14 states and still have tremendous growth potential.

The report, which highlights the geothermal industry’s growth, status as a green energy source, job creation and investment potential, comes on the heels of GEA’s Geothermal Energy Finance Forum, an event that brought geothermal development experts and major financial players together in New York City’s financial district.

“The Geothermal Energy Industry is experiencing unprecedented growth with future years’s promising double-digit, year-over-year expansion,” said Karl Gawell, GEA Executive Director. “While stimulus money has been driving much of our recent growth, we are also seeing that as geothermal technology pushes forward the economics of these projects really make sense.”

A major source of the geothermal industry’s 46% growth in confirmed new power projects over the past year and 33% increase in employment was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, which expanded tax credits for new projects to include a 30% investment credit and a "cash grant" alternative.  ARRA also "laid the foundation for sustained future growth" according to Gawell by providing up to $400 million in new funding to implement a wide range of research, development, demonstration and deployment activities. The amount of Federal funding provided to the geothermal industry through ARRA is unprecedented and is spurring the continued development of domestic geothermal resources.

The report identifies up to $342 million of federal funding currently allocated to 132 geothermal research, development, and demonstration projects in 27 states. When cost sharing among the awardees is accounted for, the amount of dollars allocated to geothermal research and development over the last year increases to approximately $626 million. Nevada leads the way in ARRA projects with the Department of Energy funding totaling over $70 million.

The funding is being used to study many emerging geothermal technologies including Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) and Geothermal Hydrocarbon Co-production (GHCP).

Enhanced Geothermal Systems is a relatively new technology, and the report detailing several EGS R&D and demonstration projects that are underway in the United States. Development of EGS technology is an important key to unlocking the vast reserves of energy available from the heat of the earth.  A report prepared by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (The Future of Geothermal Energy, January 2006) estimates that hundreds of thousands of megawatts of geothermal power could be produced in the United States alone as a result of pursuing research into EGS systems.

Geothermal Hydrocarbon Co-production brings power from usable geothermal fluids found in oil and gas production fields as well as certain mining operations. The Southern Methodist University Geothermal Energy Program has estimated that GHCP operations in the Texas Gulf Plains have the capability of providing 1000-5000 MW of power.

The full report is available at GEA’s Web site at the link below.

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