US government study indicates 60 GW of geothermal energy capacity under our feet

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REW_DOE Releases New Study Highlighting the Untapped Potential of Geothermal Energy in the United States
Sunset over a U.S. Department of Energy geothermal test site (Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada). Photo credit: Andrew Tiedeman

This week, the U.S. Department of Energy released an analysis that shows how the United States could benefit from the vast potential of geothermal energy. The analysis culminated in a report, GeoVision: Harnessing the Heat Beneath Our Feet, which summarizes findings showing that geothermal electricity generation could increase more than 26-fold from today — reaching 60 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity by 2050.

In addition to describing electricity-generation opportunities, the GeoVision analysis also shows how geothermal can enhance heating and cooling solutions for American residential and commercial consumers through direct-use and heat-pump technologies.

“There is enormous untapped potential for geothermal energy in the United States,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “Making geothermal more affordable can increase our energy options for a more diverse electricity generation mix and for innovative heating and cooling solutions for all Americans.”

The GeoVision analysis represents a multiyear collaboration among industry, academia, the National Laboratories, and federal agencies to evaluate the potential for different geothermal resources. The effort assessed opportunities to expand nationwide geothermal energy deployment through 2050 by improving technologies, reducing costs, and addressing project development barriers such as long permitting timelines.

In the electric sector, under business as usual, geothermal generation capacity will grow to 6 GW by 2050. By accelerating geothermal development timelines, geothermal capacity could more than double from business as usual, to 13 GW. Geothermal capacity could increase even further — to 60 GW — by combining faster development timelines with technology improvements.

In the non-electric sector, technology improvements could enable more than 17,500 geothermal district-heating installations nationwide, and 28 million U.S. households could realize cost-effective heating and cooling solutions through the use of geothermal heat pumps.

The analysis also examined economic benefits to the U.S. geothermal industry; investigated opportunities for desalination, mineral recovery, and hybridization with other energy technologies for greater efficiencies and lower costs; and quantified potential environmental impacts of increased geothermal deployment.

In addition to summarizing opportunities for geothermal energy in the United States, the GeoVision analysis includes a roadmap of actionable items for stakeholders to reduce technology costs and speed up project-development timelines.

To learn more about the GeoVision report, visit the Energy Department’s GeoVision analysis webpage.   

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