Study: Geothermal becoming more efficient, improving fastest

New York, July 15, 2009 — According to a new study from NYU Stern, geothermal and wind energy are two of the most efficient forms of renewable energy, and are yielding greater returns on the research and development invested in them than most other renewable energy alternatives.

NYU Stern Professor Melissa Schilling, an expert in strategic management and technology and innovation management, finds that the cost of generating electricity with geothermal or wind energy is a fraction of the cost of solar energy. More important, the performance of both is improving much more per dollar of R&D invested in them than solar technologies. This is the first study to explore the trajectory of performance improvement of renewable energy alternatives.

She examined data on government R&D investment and technological improvement and found:

  • Geothermal energy is the most efficient renewable energy alternative and is improving the fastest. Wind energy is second.
  • Fossil fuel technologies are no longer improving (in terms of efficiency) much — if at all. These technologies have likely reached their performance limits, though the government still spends far more on them.
  • Geothermal energy could become cheaper than fossil fuels with R&D spending of as little as $3.3 billion.
  • Both geothermal and wind energy technologies have been underfunded by national governments relative to funding for solar technologies, and government funding of fossil fuel technologies might be excessive given their diminishing performance.

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