Geothermal, Project Development

U.S. Geothermal Power Poised to Double, Survey Shows

With 45 geothermal projects under way, the U.S. total geothermal power capacity online in 2005 was 2,828 MW, and that number could nearly double, as a survey on U.S. geothermal power output shows, due to a major surge in developing geothermal power projects within the U.S.

According to a recent survey by the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), “2006 Update on US Geothermal Power Production and Development” identified new power projects in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Utah. These projects, when developed, would provide between 1,817.9 MW and 2094.9MW of new electric power for the grid. That would be enough electricity to meet the needs of cities the size of Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Sacramento and Seattle combined, GEA noted. The document reviews the status of installed power generation and new activity across the U.S. and provides an update of federal government programs and incentives plus a summary table of projects under development. “New federal and state initiatives to promote geothermal energy are paying off,” said Karl Gawell, GEA’s Executive Director. “State renewable standards coupled with the federal production tax credit are creating a renaissance in U.S. geothermal power production.” According to Gawell, the most significant catalyst behind this new industry activity was passage of the Energy Policy Act by Congress (EPAct) in 2005. EPAct made new geothermal plants eligible for the full federal production tax credit, previously available only to wind projects. It also authorized and directed increased funding for research by the Department of Energy, and gave the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) new legal guidance and secure funding to address its backlog of geothermal leases and permits, according to GEA. “If we can build and sustain the momentum that EPAct has given the industry, geothermal energy can become a major U.S. energy source. But we face serious challenges this year in Congress,” Gawell warned. The FY 2007 Budget could undermine several of EPAct’s initiatives, causing a major setback to the industry’s progress, GEA asserts. “Instead of increasing DOE funding, the budget proposes to zero-out geothermal research. Instead of providing the resources needed for BLM to work off its 25-year backlog of lease applications, the budget proposes to repeal this and other provisions of EPAct. Finally, the budget is silent on extending the production tax credit beyond its current deadline of December 31, 2007, a date most of these new projects will not be able to meet,” according to Gawell.