2.1. How many homes are served by geothermal power plants?
The geothermal power production in the U.S. today provides enough electricity to meet the electricity needs of about 2.4 million California households. (1) This does not include contributions from geothermal heat pumps and direct heating uses.
2.2. How much geothermal electricity is currently supplied to the U.S.?
In 2007, geothermal was the fourth largest source of renewable energy in the U.S. Today the U.S. has about 3,000 MW of geothermal electricity connected to the grid. (2) Geothermal energy generated 14,885 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity in 2007, which accounted for 4% of renewable energy-based electricity consumption in the U.S. (including large hydropower). (3) The U.S. continues to produce more geothermal electricity than any other country, comprising approximately 30 percent of the world total. (4)
In California, the state with the largest amount of geothermal power on line, electricity from geothermal resources accounted for 5 percent of the state’s electricity generation in 2003 on a per kilowatt hour basis. (5) Geothermal is the largest non-hydro renewable energy source in the state, significantly exceeding the contribution of wind and solar combined.
Figure 14: Renewable Energy Generation in California 1983-2006
2.3. Are geothermal projects
currently being developed in the U.S.?
Yes. As of August 2008, almost 4,000 MW of new geothermal power plant capacity was under development in the U.S. (this includes projects in the initial development phases). Those states with projects currently under consideration or development are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Combined, these states have approximately 103 projects in development ranging from initial to advanced stages. (6)
Direct uses applications of geothermal energy occur today in 26 states—almost as many states as produce coal. (7) New direct use projects are encouraged by the provisions of the Geothermal Steam Act Amendments passed by Congress in 2005. There is interest in new direct use projects in numerous states and on various Indian reservations within several states.
Geothermal heat pump installations have been growing at an annual rate of 15 percent, with more than 600,000 units installed in the U.S. by the end of 2005. Every year in the U.S., 50,000 to 60,000 new units are installed—the largest growth in the world for geothermal heat pumps. (8)
2.4. How much energy does geothermal
Geothermal energy supplies more than 10,000 MW to 24 countries worldwide and now produces enough electricity to meet the needs of 60 million people. (9) The Philippines, which generates 23% of its electricity from geothermal energy, is the world’s second biggest producer behind the U.S. (10) Geothermal energy has helped developing countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Mexico. The benefits of geothermal projects can preserve the cleanliness of developing countries seeking energy and economic independence, and it can provide a local source of electricity in remote locations, thus raising the quality of life.
Iceland is widely considered the success story of the geothermal community. The country of just over 300,000 people is now fully powered by renewable forms of energy, with 17% of electricity and 87% of heating needs provided by geothermal energy (fossil fuels are still imported for fishing and transportation needs). Iceland has been expanding its geothermal power production largely to meet growing industrial and commercial energy demand. In 2004, Iceland was reported to have generated 1465 gigawatt-hours (GWh) from geothermal resources; geothermal production is expected to reach 3000 GWh this year (2009).
GEA’s May 2007 Interim Report: Update on World Geothermal Development named the countries producing geothermal electricity:
- 21 Countries Generating Geothermal Power in 2000: Australia, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France (Guadeloupe), Guatemala, Iceland, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Philippines, Portugal (Azores), Russia, Thailand, Turkey, United States
- 3 Countries Adding Power Generation by 2005 (for a total of 24): Austria, Germany, Papua New Guinea
- 22 Potential New Countries by 2010 (for potential total of 46): Armenia, Canada, Chile, Djibouti, Dominica, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, India, Iran, Korea, Nevis, Rwanda, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, St. Lucia, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam, Yemen
Geothermal electricity generation is likely to expand. According to the International Geothermal Association (IGA) in IGA News 72 (April–June 2008), total global geothermal capacity is expected to rise to 11 GW by 2010. (11) See also section 3.5.
In addition to large power generation, geothermal is also used for direct use purposes worldwide. In 2005, 72 countries reported using geothermal energy for direct heating, providing more than 16,000 MW of geothermal energy. Geothermal energy is used directly for a variety of purposes, including space heating, snow melting, aquaculture, greenhouse production, and more. (12)
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