Although geothermal power projects typically take many years to develop, the geothermal power industry is rapidly expanding beyond its traditional markets. Promising resources in emerging markets and innovative technology demonstration projects are helping to exploit untapped geographic potential.
According to a new report from Pike Research, a part of Navigant’s Energy Practice, a total of 454 geothermal power projects are now under active development worldwide, with surface exploration already underway. Sixty-four countries have geothermal projects slated for development, compared to fewer than 30 countries just a few years ago, the study concludes.
“As of the first quarter of 2013, an estimated 18.5 GW of geothermal power capacity is in the pipeline,” says senior research analyst Mackinnon Lawrence. “Although a substantial portion of this capacity will never reach fruition, it’s clear that both project developers and investors have recognized the vast energy potential of geothermal resources, signaling a likely expansion in geothermal activity over the next decade.”
Conventional geothermal (hydrothermal) power, representing 90 percent of the projects identified in the report, exploits naturally occurring pockets of steam or hot water close to the Earth’s surface to generate renewable energy. Because such conditions are rare, the majority of today’s geothermal power projects are located in rift zones or volcanically active parts of the world where such anomalies are more likely to be present.
Advances in enhanced geothermal system technology, which uses deep drilling and injected water to create underground steam reservoirs, could open up new areas to geothermal power projects. According to the report, 252 MW of EGS capacity is currently under development across North America, Asia Pacific, Western Europe, and Eastern Europe.