U.S. sees 20% jump in planned geothermal

The U.S., which continues to lead the world in on-line geothermal energy capacity, saw a 20% jump in new power projects since January this year, a survey released by the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) in August showed.

Compared with 86 projects reported in January, the August survey identified 103 projects under way in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. When developed, the projects would altogether add 3,979 MW of new power to the nation’s grid—increasing total geothermal capacity from the 2,957 MW currently on-line in the U.S. to almost 7,000 MW, the GEA said.

As of August 2008, California led U.S. states in on-line capacity with 2,555.3 MW (Figure 6). It was followed by Nevada (318 MW), Utah (36 MW), Hawaii (35 MW), Idaho (13 MW), Alaska (0.4 MW), and New Mexico (0.24 MW).

6. California power flex. California, which led U.S. states in total on-line geothermal capacity in August, is gearing up for 20 new projects with a total capacity of about 1,016.6 MW. The state is home to several spectacular plants, including The Geysers, a project consisting of 22 separate power plants that produce about 750 MW. Shown here is a Geysers plant, the 24-MW West Ford Flat, in Middletown, Calif. Courtesy: Calpine Corp.

Nevada had the most developments planned of any state: 42 projects with a total capacity of 1,082.5 MW to 1,901.5. California followed with 20 projects and total capacity of 907.6 MW to 1,016.6 MW. For the first time, Washington, Wyoming, Oregon, Florida, Colorado, and Arizona will be adding geothermal capacity to their generation portfolios with projects planned for those states.

According to the GEA, development of these new projects will provide significant economic benefits: They are expected to result in the infusion of roughly $15 billion in capital investment in the western states and create 7,000 permanent jobs.

The number of geothermal projects has been steadily increasing over the past two years, the report points out. Geothermal power production is headed to meet or exceed recent projections. In January 2006, The Western Governors Association’s Geothermal Task Force projected that there would be 15,000 MW of geothermal power on-line by 2025; at the current pace, geothermal production could exceed this estimate, the GEA said.