About the article: This special Renewable Energy Focus power generation focus previews REMIPEG's latest update, carried out in the first four months of 2011 by Lahmeyer International, and presents an overview for each renewable power sector, based on scenarios up to the end of 2010.
This article is taken from the July/August issue of Renewable Energy Focus (REFocus) magazine. For a free subscription, click here.
The world geothermal power market is well positioned within the renewable energy sector, although current growth is only seen as modest. While other renewable sources such as wind and solar PV have shown exponential growth, the amount of new geothermal power installed is more modest.
Approximately 390MW in geothermal project capacity was newly installed in 2010, compared to around 200MW in 2009. By the end of 2010 the global installed capacity for geothermal power production was estimated to have exceeded 11 GW.
The number of countries with projects under development grew at a much faster pace. While only 46 countries were considering geothermal power development in 2007, 70 countries were identified as having projects under development (or at least were actively considering them) in 2010. In Europe and Africa the number of countries developing or considering projects grew from 10 to 24, and 6 to 11 respectively.
Despite these growth trends, however, geothermal power has struggled to realise its potential. In 1999, 39 countries were identified as having the potential to meet 100% of their electricity needs through domestic geothermal resources; but significant power production had been developed in only nine.
In South America for example, Chile, Peru and Ecuador have excellent potential for geothermal energy production, but as of the end of 2010, no power plant had been developed.
The U.S. still remains the most dominant player in the global geothermal market with an installed capacity of around 3.1 GW. The Philippines was ranked as the world's second largest generator of geothermal energy with an installed capacity of more than 1.9 GW, followed by Indonesia (1.2 GW); Mexico (1.0 GW); and Italy (0.85 GW).
In countries with less favourable geothermal resources, there are several ways that growth could be achieved: further development of geothermal power plants using medium enthalpy resources; the possibility of using Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS); not to mention regional support, international financial and development aid, and more Government commitment.
Some market trends, and individual projects of note in 2010 are outlined below.
Geothermal energy could be a major resource for countries along the East African Rift Valley, with an estimated electricity generating potential of 7,000 MW. The African Rift Valley Geothermal Development Facility (ARGeo) assists 6 countries in the region - advising on resource development and drilling risk. It works closely with Government agencies, institutions, universities, the private sector and power utilities. ARGeo is backed by UNEP, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development – supported by European Union climate policies.
Kenya has an installed capacity of 202 MW, and Ethiopia, 7.3 MW. These are the only countries producing energy from geothermal resources. Both countries plan to expand geothermal generating capacity over the next years. Several projects are under construction that will increase the installed capacity in Kenya to 490 MW, and in Ethiopia to 45 MW, by 2015. Kenya installed a third unit at Olkaria II with a capacity of 35 MW during 2010. Olkaria II now has a capacity of 105 MW, which makes it the largest in Africa.
In addition, Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda are at varying stages of geothermal development.
The great geothermal reserves found in Asia's countries - around the Pacific Ring of Fire – are mostly developed in the Philippines, Indonesia and Japan.
Tibet, Thailand, Russia and Turkey also have plants that produce geothermal energy. Many other countries are in the preliminary stages of geothermal project development.
The European and Central Asia (ECA) geothermal energy development program aims to promote the use of geothermal energy in the region. The program includes technical assistance to promote geothermal energy growth; direct investment funding to support project developers; and geological risk insurance to mitigate geological risk.
Indonesia, with an impressive potential of around 28,000 MW, had exploited only 1,197 MW by the end of 2010. The Indonesian Government has signed geothermal energy deals targeting a total capacity of 9,000 MW from geothermal resources by 2025. If it succeeds, it will become the world's largest producer of geothermal energy in the world.
Summary of the global geothermal power market, data up until the end of 2010
||Cumulative installed capacity 2010 (GW)
||Estimated electricity generation 2010 (TWh/year)
|Largest national market
|| U.S. 16.6
Iceland and Italy are the dominant players in Europe in generating energy using their geothermal resources. In Italy, the start-up of the second unit of the Radicondoli geothermal power plant was announced in November 2010. With its 20 MW of capacity, the new unit adds to the 40MW produced by the existing power plant. Another 20 MW plant, Chiusdino 1, also came online in 2010.
In Turkey, a 9.5 MW plant at the Aydin-Salavatli geothermal field was commissioned in 2010.
The U.S. market remains the most dominant, with an installed capacity of around 3.1 GW. However, while in 2009 the U.S. market grew by 176 MW, only one geothermal power plant was installed in 2010 (capacity – 15 MW) at Jersey Valley in Nevada.
Mexico has an installed capacity of 958 MW, and is ranked fourth in terms of capacity. Meanwhile, in Costa Rica and El Salvador, geothermal energy makes up 13% and 26% of national electricity generation respectively. Geothermal energy plays an important role in the energy mix of Guatemala and Nicaragua, too.
On the French island of Guadeloupe, a 15 MW plant meets approximately 8% of the island's electricity demand. Other Caribbean islands such as Dominica, Montserrat, Netherland Antilles, St. Kitt and Nevis also harbour significant geothermal resources. The planned 10 MW power plant on Nevis for example will almost meet the power needs of the entire island.
While no geothermal power plants are currently built on the continent in spite of excellent geothermal reserves around the Pacific ring of fire, certain South American countries – Chile for example – are incentivising the development of geothermal resources through policy measures (the Chilean Government has sold a number of geothermal exploration and development concessions to local and foreign geothermal developers, with a view to exploiting up to 16,000 MW).
In Argentina the mining industry – together with local developers – are also working to develop geothermal resources, using geological and geophysical studies of geothermal resources dating back to the 1970's.
In Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador initial steps to develop geothermal resources have also been taken.
New Zealand's first geothermal power plant has operated since 1958 at Wairakei. In 2010 geothermal energy made up approximately 10% of the country's electricity, with an installed capacity of 761 MW.
The first unit of the 132 MW Nga Awa Purua geothermal power plant became fully operational in April 2010, and is now the largest single turbine geothermal power plant in the world.
Part eight coming soon: Ocean and tidal power transition continues...