Geothermal energy in the United States

Geothermal energy in the United States

Geothermal energy in the United States continues to be an area of considerable activity. The USA is the world leader in online capacity of geothermal energy and the generation of electricity from geothermal energy. [ 6 Million American Households to be Powered by Geothermal Energy, New Survey Reports] ]

The first U.S. geothermal power plant, opened at The Geysers in California in 1960, continues to operate successfully. The United States generates an average of 15 billion kilowatt hours of geothermal power per year, comparable to burning some 25 million barrels of oil or 6 million short tons of coal per year. [ A Guide to Geothermal Energy and the Environment] ]

Although geothermal power plants, concentrated in the West, provide the third largest domestic source of renewable electricity after hydroelectricity and biomass, they currently produce less than one percent of total U.S. electricity supply. However, a geothermal resource assessment shows that nine western states together have the potential to provide over 20 percent of national electricity needs.


According to archaeological evidence, geothermal resources have been in use on the current territory of the United States for more than 10,000 years. The Paleo-Indians first used geothermal hot springs for warmth, cleansing, and minerals.

The first commercial geothermal power plant producing power to the U.S. utility grid opened at The Geysers in California in 1960, producing eleven megawatts of net power. The Geysers system continues to operate successfully today, and the complex has grown into the largest geothermal development in the world, with an output of 750 MW.

Production and development

With 2,957 MW of installed geothermal capacity, the United States remains the world leader with 30% of the online capacity total. The future outlook for expanded production from conventional and enhanced geothermal systems is positive as new technologies promise increased growth in locations previously not considered. [ Update: The State of U.S. Geothermal Production and Development] ]

As of August 2008, 103 projects are underway in 13 U.S. states. When developed, these projects could potentially supply up to 3,979 MW of power, meeting the needs of about 4 million homes. At this rate of development, geothermal production in the United States could exceed 15,000 MW by 2025.

The most significant catalyst behind new industry activity is the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This Act made new geothermal plants eligible for the full federal production tax credit, previously available only to wind power projects. It also authorized and directed increased funding for research by the Department of Energy, and enabled the Bureau of Land Management to address its backlog of geothermal leases and permits.

In April 2008, exploratory drilling began at Newberry Volcano in Oregon.cite news|title=Company Seeks Power From Crater|publisher=Vancouver Sun|date=2008-06-03|page=B2|author=Gail Kinsey-Hill]


Geothermal has a higher capacity factor (a measure of the amount of real time during which a facility is used) than many other power sources. Unlike wind and solar resources, which are more dependent upon weather fluctuations, geothermal resources are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. While the carrier medium for geothermal electricity (water) must be properly managed, the source of geothermal energy, the Earth's heat, will be available indefinitely.

ee also

*The Geysers
*Geothermal energy and aquaculture
*Geothermal desalination
*Geothermal energy exploration in Central Australia
*List of renewable energy topics by country


External links

* [ Nevada to Quadruple Its Geothermal Power, Says GEA Report]
* [ Geothermal Energy Association]
* [ Lawmakers hear from solar, geothermal power companies]
* [ House Science Committee Passes Advanced Geothermal Research Bill]
* [ SCE signs large new renewable energy contracts]
* [ geothermal energy production]
* [ Geothermal Lease Auction Signals New Trend in U.S.]
* [ The Status of the U.S. Geothermal Industry]
* [ Scaling Geothermal for Reliable Baseload Power]
* [ Technological Innovation Driving Renewed Interest in Geothermal Energy]

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