There’s a bit of a boomlet going on in the geothermal industry, with the number of states with active projects going from four to 15 in about a less than a decade. That’s according to the Geothermal Energy Association, the trade organization that just released its annual report.
“Despite the slow economy, geothermal resources are being used for power production in an expanding portion of the United States. The growth we’ve seen since 2005 continues in 2011,” said GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell.
Four years ago there were four stares with geothermal power production and now there are nine. “In the near future there should be at least 15. And that’s substantial growth,” Gawell added.
The Geothermal Energy Association just released its annual report: Industry Poised for Ascendant Growth, Continuing Regional Expansion.
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. Geothermal-generated electricity has been limited to western states where underground steam resources are most plentiful. New technologies are allowing lower temperature resources to be exploited for electric power generation.
At first glance, the addition of one 10-megawatt power plant in 2010 doesn’t sound like much, but the industry organization emphasized that the long lead times for projects of perhaps five to seven years, combined with an increase in exploration and drilling activity since 2005, should lead to a significant increase in projects over the next couple years.
“One of the first things that jumped out from the report is the number of projects entering the advanced stage of project development. The report identified some 756 to 772 megawatts of new capacity,” said GEA Research Associate Dan Jennejohn. “These are projects we expect to see coming online in the next couple of years.”
The GEA reported that projects are being developed in areas where geothermal resources are being developed for the first time.
“Over 70 percent of the projects are being developed in areas in which the industry typically identifies as greenfield, where a geothermal reservoir has not previously been tapped,” Jennejohn said.
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 megawatts. 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.
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.
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.
Perhaps in next year’s report, there will be more states to add to those with functioning power plants.
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