Survey Finds Geothermal Power Expanding in U.S.

When almost 60 new geothermal energy projects now under development in the U.S. are complete, up to 2,250 megawatts (MW) of electric power capacity will come online, generating approximately 18 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity annually.

This would almost double installed U.S. geothermal power capacity to more than 5,000 MW, according to a survey by the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA). These additions produce electric power roughly equivalent to all U.S. wind facilities operating in 2005. “This represents the U.S. geothermal industry’s most dramatic wave of expansion since the 1980s,” noted Karl Gawell, GEA’s executive director. The new GEA survey identifies power projects under development in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Utah and classifies their stage of development. Since the last survey in March 2006, Alaska has been added to the list of states producing geothermal power and a dozen new U.S. geothermal projects have been initiated. “The good news is that federal and state incentives to promote geothermal energy are paying off. We are seeing a geothermal power renaissance in the U.S.,” stated Gawell. “The bad news is that some projects are already being put on hold because of the impending deadline for the federal production tax credit,” he added. As part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress expanded the full production tax credit (PTC) to include new geothermal facilities. Prior to 2005, the PTC was limited to new wind projects and has been widely credited with spurring the expansion of the U.S. wind industry over the past decade. But, the deadline for plants to be online and qualify for the credit was extended for only two years, or to Dec. 31, 2007. “Geothermal and other baseload renewable power plants take several years to build and many of these plants can’t be online by the Dec. 31, 2007 deadline,” Gawell stated. “The PTC deadline urgently needs to be extended.”

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