A new survey shows a major surge in developing geothermal power projects in the U.S. Some 45 projects are underway that could nearly double U.S. geothermal power output according to the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) -- the industry trade group. The U.S. had 2,828 MW of geothermal power capacity on-line in 2005.
The survey identified new power projects in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Utah. These projects, when developed, would provide between 1,820 MW and 2095 MW of new electric power for the grid. This would be enough electricity to meet the needs of cities the size of Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Sacramento and Seattle combined, GEA noted.
Geothermal energy is defined as heat from the Earth. It is a clean, renewable resource that provides energy in the United States and around the world. It is considered a renewable resource because the heat emanating from the interior of the Earth is essentially limitless. The heat continuously flowing from the Earth’s interior is estimated to be equivalent to 42 million megawatts of power. The interior of the Earth is expected to remain extremely hot for billions of year to come, ensuring an inexhaustible flow of heat.
To develop electricity from geothermal resources, wells are drilled into the natural hot water or steam, known as a geothermal reservoir. The reservoir collects many meters below the groundwater table. Wells bring the geothermal liquid to the surface, where it is converted at a power plant into electricity.
Geothermal has a higher capacity factor than many other power sources. Unlike wind and solar resources, which are more dependent upon weather fluctuations and climate changes, geothermal resources are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Nine western states, where the majority of geothermal resouces are located, have the potential to provide over 20 percent of national electricity needs. Although geothermal power plants, concentrated in the West, provide the third largest domestic source of renewable electricity after hydropower and biomass, they currently produce less than one percent of total U.S. electricity.
Resource: U.S. Geothermal Power Poised to Double, New Survey Shows Press release, Geothermal Energy Association
The Energy Blog: Geothermal Power to Double