Washington, D.C., December 14, 2009 — The Geothermal Energy Association released a year-end review of geothermal and offered an outlook for 2010 and beyond.
Despite the recession, geothermal energy grew at a robust pace in 2009, adding 750 full time jobs and 2,827 construction-related jobs due to a roughly $800 million investment in the technology.
With six new geothermal plants online in the United States, power capacity rose 6 percent during the year.
Currently, 144 geothermal plants are under development in the United States. The growth of geothermal projects could bring the nation 7,000 MW of new baseload geothermal power in the next few years, raising the prospects of 10 GW of geothermal power in coming years.
At that level, geothermal power will satisfy the needs of over 10 million people and still have growth potential in the United States.
The U.S. took major steps towards advanced geothermal technology through investment in Enhanced Geothermal Systems.
New EGS systems will allow geothermal power to expand its effective range across the nation. Additionally, inaugurated this year were two projects that would use hot water produced by oil and gas wells to produce geothermal power.
The progress of the geothermal industry this year has been propelled by state and federal policies. The two largest geothermal producers, California and Nevada, each raised their renewable energy standards; California to 33 percent by 2020 and Nevada to 25 percent by 2025.
Utilities in those states are looking to geothermal energy to fill these needs. In addition, the DOE this year opened its loan program for innovative technologies to geothermal technology, and Congress created a new DOE loan guarantee program for renewable projects using commercial technology.
Finally, BLM held a sale involving lands in Nevada, California and Utah which resulted in the sale of 255,355 acres of land and total revenue of about $9 million.
Up to $338 million in Recovery Act funding was allotted for the exploration and development of new geothermal fields and research into advanced geothermal technologies.
These grants will support 123 projects in 39 states, with recipients including private industry, academic institutions, tribal entities, local governments, and DOE’s National Laboratories.
When completed, these projects will represent a federal-private total of $691 million invested in new geothermal technology and applications.
The outlook for 2010 is for even stronger growth in the industry, continued progress with new technology, and greater priority from federal and state policymakers.
GEA predicts in the new year that the number of states with geothermal power will reach double digits, with new power projects coming on line in four to eight states.
New technology advances will continue to expand the recognized power potential of geothermal resources; DOE will officially recognize a near-term potential of at least 20 GW, or 5 percent of U.S. power needs, with longer-term possibilities well over 100 GW.