GEA: Geothermal industry poised for ascendant growth, continuing regional expansion

Source: Geothermal Energy Association

With new developments and pioneering technology, geothermal energy is spreading throughout the United States, as described in the annual report on the geothermal industry from the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA). The Annual GEA U.S. Geothermal Power Production and Development Report shows that in 2011, the geothermal industry is producing clean power in nine states and developing 146 projects across 15 states, with the total number of geothermal projects and prospects under development increasing 12 percent.

The United States ranks No. 1 in geothermal energy production and continues to be one of the leading countries in geothermal growth. The total installed capacity of the U.S. is approximately 3,102 MW, enough to power over 2 million homes -- or the residential populations of San Francisco, Portland and Seattle combined. Currently, geothermal electric power generation is occurring in nine U.S. states, including: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. Bringing the geothermal resource capacity GEA identifies on-line would triple U.S. geothermal power production.

“The geothermal industry has an exciting year ahead, as there are numerous projects switching from development phases to full-fledged geothermal power plants,” said GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell. “And a second wave of development is on its way. This report reveals that many projects are entering the drilling and production phase, which is where the majority of geothermal job creation is.”

As the majority of the industry remains concentrated in the western U.S., pilot projects are beginning to show development potential further east. New projects are focusing on generating geothermal electricity from low temperature fluids left over as a byproduct from oil and gas production and harnessing electricity from geothermal fluids under high geological pressure along the Gulf of Mexico.

“We are building new plants in places that have never had geothermal power before, giving people in these states the clean and renewable power we need,” said Gawell.

Many projects currently undergoing advanced stages of production are located in Nevada and California, with additional projects nearing construction in Oregon, New Mexico, Idaho, and Hawaii, Alaska, Louisiana and Mississippi.

While the number of states with geothermal installed capacity and projects in development is significant, the reach of the geothermal industry is even more extensive. A total of 43 states have companies involved in geothermal development operations.

For the first time, the Annual GEA U.S. Geothermal Power Production and Development Report was produced under a reporting system known as the Geothermal Reporting Terms and Definitions in order to increase the accuracy and value of the information presented. The Geothermal Reporting Terms and Definitions act as a guideline to project developers in reporting geothermal project development information to the GEA.

“The new system increases the precision of our reports,” said GEA Research Associate Dan Jennejohn. “By providing the industry and public with a lexicon of definitions and a guideline to determine phases of development, we can better asses a geothermal project’s position in the development timeline.”

Geothermal leaders will gather in Washington DC on Wednesday, May 4 for the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) 2011 Geothermal Energy Technology and International Development Forum.

The full report can be accessed here: Annual US Geothermal Power Production and Development Report

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