The “2014 Annual U.S. & Global Geothermal Power Production Report, released at GEA’s International Geothermal Showcase in Washington, D.C., earlier this week, finds almost 700 projects currently under development in 76 countries. Threats caused by climate change and the need for a renewable energy source that can satisfy both firm and flexible grid needs are among the key factors driving the international community to invest in geothermal power.
Following are some highlights from the report:
International geothermal market growth was up, while stateside growth held steady; 85 MW of the total global 530 MW of new geothermal capacity in 2013 was in the U.S. However, U.S. growth was flat because of policy barriers, gridlock at the federal level, low natural gas prices and inadequate transmission infrastructure. In 2013, 25 pieces of legislation in 13 U.S. states were enacted specifically to address geothermal power and heating systems, creating a foundation for the environment needed to foster geothermal growth in these states.
Globally, significant geothermal development growth is expected over the next few years. In East Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia are building power plants greater than 100 MW. For comparison the average size of a geothermal power plant in the U.S. is about 25 MW. South American nations such as Chile, Argentina, Colombia and Honduras have significant potential, but are in the early stages of identifying their resources. The GEA estimates that Chile is actively developing 50 projects and prospects.
“While there was a modest downturn in capacity additions, the Industry Update also underscores the tremendous untapped potential for geothermal energy,” said Karl Gawell, GEA executive director. According to the report, the geothermal industry was working on 977MW of new capacity (Planned Capacity Additions or PCA’s) at sites that hold over 3,092MW of power potential in eight western states, the GEA report indicates.
U.S. additions in Utah, Nevada, California, and New Mexico kept the industry on the map domestically in 2013, and future growth looks promising. “The geothermal resource base is still largely untapped,” noted Ben Matek, GEA’s Industry Analyst. “With new initiatives in Nevada, California and Oregon moving to recognize the values of geothermal power, we are optimistic that state policies could spark another period of growth in geothermal power over the next decade.”