While other forms of renewable power may be getting more media coverage, geothermal power continues to steam ahead. Two reports confirm the trend.
A survey released by the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) in August 2008 shows continued growth in the number of new geothermal power projects under development in the United States, a 20 percent increase since January of this year. The report identified 103 projects underway in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. When developed, these projects could provide nearly 4 gigawatts (GW) of new electric power, enough electricity to meet the needs of roughly 4 million homes.
Current geothermal capacity online is almost 3 GW according to the report, and with the new additions, geothermal power could reach nearly 7 GW.
Meanwhile, in September 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey released the first national geothermal resource estimate in more than 30 years. The results of this assessment show the United States has an estimated 9 GW of power generation potential from domestic, conventional, identified geothermal systems; 30 GW of power generation potential from conventional, undiscovered geothermal resources; and almost 518 GW of power generation potential from unconventional (high temperature, low permeability) enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) resources.
The results of this assessment indicate full development of the conventional, identified systems alone could expand geothermal power production by approximately 6.5 GW, or about 260 percent of the currently installed geothermal total of more than 2.5 GW. The resource estimate for unconventional EGS, if successfully developed, could provide an installed geothermal electric power generation capacity equivalent to about half of the currently installed electric power generating capacity in the United States.
“The results of the assessment point to a greater potential for geothermal power production than previous assessments,” said Dirk Kempthorne, U.S. Secretary of the Interior. “Geothermal energy is not only a renewable resource, but could significantly contribute to our domestic energy resource base.”