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Geothermal Basics - Employment

9.1. What types of jobs are created by the geothermal sector, and how long will they last?

According to an employment study, an overwhelming majority of geothermal jobs (86%) are full time, permanent positions. Geothermal provides quality wages to people living in depressed economic communities and provides a stable source of employment.

Geothermal provides long-term income for people with a diversity of job skills. People directly employed by the sector include welders, mechanics, pipe fitters, plumbers, machinists, electricians, carpenters, construction and drilling equipment operators and excavators, surveyors, architects and designers, geologists, hydrologists, electrical, mechanical, and structural engineers, HVAC technicians, food processing specialists, aquaculture and horticulture specialists, resort managers, spa developers, researchers, and government employees. (1)

9.2. How many people currently work in the U.S. geothermal industry?

In answering this question, most organizations focus upon the total number of direct and indirect jobs created by their industry. For geothermal, direct jobs relate to the construction and maintenance of geothermal power plants, while indirect jobs provide goods and services to the industries directly involved in power plant construction or operation and maintenance. The number of indirect jobs within a particular sector is largely theoretical, and changes according to the preferred method of analysis. So while indirect impacts should certainly be considered—any investment in a particular sector of the economy will impact other sectors—it is also important to distinguish between these two types of employment impacts.

According to an employment survey conducted by Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), the total number of jobs supported by the existing geothermal industry in 2004 was 11,460. This includes direct, indirect, and induced employment. (2) Power plant or direct employment was estimated to be 4,583 full-time positions. This corresponds to 1.7 permanent jobs per megawatt of capacity installed. As the report notes, “Employment in the industry is probably at a historic low since power plant construction has been minimal between 1993 and 2004 as state and federal policies underwent significant changes. Also, because federal research support is at a historically low level, associated research employment is low.”

9.3. How many jobs will be supported by the geothermal industry in the future?

Many new projects are under development and will likely come on line within the next few years, which will significantly expand geothermal employment. According to a report by the Western Governors Association (WGA), development of near-term geothermal potential of 5,600 MW of geothermal energy would result in the creation of almost 100,000 jobs. The chart below summarizes that estimate of geothermal employment potential.

Table 2: Summary of Western States' Near-Term Geothermal Potential and Resulting Employment and Economic Contribution


New Power Capacity (MWs)

Direct and Indirect and Induced Employment

(Power Plant Jobs/Construction & Manufacturing Employment)**

30 Year Economic Output (nominal) +



10,200 ft jobs/38,400 person*yrs

$36 billion



6,375 ft jobs/24,000 person*yrs

$22.5 billion



1,615 ft jobs/6,080 person*yrs

$5.7 billion



212 ft jobs/800 person*yrs

$749 million



106 ft jobs/400 person*yrs

$375 million



85 ft jobs/320 person*yrs

$300 million



85 ft jobs/320 person*yrs

$300 million



298 ft jobs/1,120 person*yrs

$1 billion



3,655 ft jobs/13,760 person*yrs

$12.9 billion

New Mexico


340 ft jobs/1,280 person*yrs

$1.2 billion



978 ft jobs/3,680 person*yrs

$3.4 billion

Wyoming , Montana , Texas , Kansas , Nebraska , South Dakota , North Dakota

Potential Exists; Resource not studied in WGA Report

Not Studied

Not Studied

Total Western States

(additional to current)

5,635 MW

23,949 fulltime jobs/90,160 person*years of construction and manufacturing employment


Almost 85 billion dollars to the U.S. economy over 30 years

** Power plant jobs are the direct, indirect and induced full-time jobs (ft jobs) created by reaching the full power production capacity indicated. Construction and manufacturing jobs are the direct, indirect and induced jobs necessary to build and supply the power plants at the full power capacity indicated. Construction and manufacturing jobs are expressed as full-time positions for one year (person*years), however these jobs will be spread out over several years depending upon the development time frame for new projects. Direct employment results in 1.7 full time positions and 6.4 person*years per megawatt. Induced and indirect impacts were calculated assuming a 2.5% multiplier; for a total direct, indirect, and induced employment impact of 4.25 full time positions and 16 person*years per megawatt.

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