This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

March 29, 2006

Trade Group Says U.S. Geothermal Power Production Growing Fast

New geothermal power projects in seven western states plus Alaska and Hawaii could significantly increase the U.S. production of electricity from geothermal resources, according to the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA). The GEA's most recent assessment of geothermal development, released in mid-March, lists geothermal power plants totaling 157 megawatts (MW) in capacity that are now under construction, including three plants in Nevada and one each in California, Idaho, and Utah. Up to 935 MW of geothermal power are in various stages of development at 18 sites in 8 states, while up to 363 MW of geothermal power projects are in their initial development phase. The GEA also counts up to 600 MW at 10 sites where the geothermal resource has been explored, but the GEA lacks confirmation that the developer has secured rights to the resource.

Adding up the most optimistic figures yields about 2,055 MW of new geothermal plants, which would be a 73 percent increase over today's U.S. geothermal capacity of 2,828 MW. Counting just those projects that have passed their initial development phase would yield at most 1,092 MW, which would be about a 40 percent increase in capacity. Today's geothermal power plants supply about 0.35 percent of the electricity used in the United States. See the GEA press release (PDF 16 KB) and full report (PDF 78 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

Two recent announcements from California utilities give credence to the GEA assessment. Last week, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) signed a contract to buy 20 MW of geothermal power from Esmeralda Truckhaven Geothermal LLC. The Esmeralda facility will be located in southern California's Imperial County and is expected to be producing power by 2010. In early March, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) contracted to buy 120 MW of geothermal power from Military Pass - Newberry Volcano Project, LLC. According to the GEA, that company's project is under development near Mt. Shasta in northern California, where the U.S. Forest Service is currently reviewing 11 pending lease applications for geothermal projects. See the press releases from SDG&E, PG&E, and the U.S. Forest Service.