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Geothermal industry expects to treble in USA over coming years

The US geothermal industry will have 10 GW of installed capacity that will provide electricity to 10 million people in 14 states, and still have tremendous potential for growth, according to the industry lobby group.

Geothermal energy is the largest renewable energy power source in the state of California, but the technology has total installed capacity of 3153 MW across the USA with facilities in Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Another 6443 MW of new geothermal power capacity is under development 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, says the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), which would be sufficient power to satisfy the needs of more than ten million people in 14 states and still have tremendous growth potential.

“The geothermal energy industry is experiencing unprecedented growth with future years promising double-digit, year-over-year expansion,” says Karl Gawell of GEA. “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 46% growth in confirmed new geothermal power projects over the past year, and the 33% increase in employment, was the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, which expanded tax credits for new projects to include a 30% investment credit and a cash grant alternative. Gawell says ARRA also “laid the foundation for sustained future growth” by providing US$400m in new funding to implement a wide range of research, development, demonstration and deployment activities.

The report, US Geothermal Power Production & Development Update, identifies US$342m of federal funding currently allocated to 132 geothermal projects in 27 states. When cost-sharing is included, the value of geothermal research over the last year increases to US$626m.

Nevada leads the way in ARRA projects with Department of Energy (DoE) funding of US$70m. This level of federal funding through ARRA is unprecedented for the geothermal industry and is spurring the continued development of domestic geothermal resources.

The funding is being used to study emerging geothermal technologies, including enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) and geothermal hydrocarbon co-production (GHCP).

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has estimated that hundreds of thousands of megawatts of power could be produced in the USA alone from EGS. GHCP generates power from geothermal fluids found in oil and gas production fields, as well as some mining operations.

This report examines the growth in the geothermal industry, as well as its potential for job creation and investment. It follows a recent GEA finance forum in New York City’s financial district, which attracted geothermal development experts and major financial players.

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