Friday, February 02, 2007

New Study Finds Extensive Untapped Geothermal Potential In Western US

[From Geothermal Energy Association via Renewable Energy Access.com:]

A new report released today finds extensive undeveloped geothermal resources in fourteen Western states - Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. The new report, An Assessment of Geothermal Resource Development Needs in the Western United States, written by Dan Fleischmann for the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) is the most in-depth study we've ever undertaken into the specific barriers and challenges to geothermal energy in the US.

Key conclusions of the 140 page report are:

  • The West's geothermal resources appear to be more extensive than most people believe;
  • The unidentified resource base is a significant near-term target of opportunity with up to 150,000 MW;
  • Federal and State policies need to be complementary and support a clear path for new project development;
  • Federal programs and tax incentives will make a significant difference; and
  • Federal efforts should be tailored to support the specific needs in each state


  • The report documents efforts in each state to develop geothermal resources and defines challenges and opportunities for expanding geothermal energy production in the US.

    The cross-cutting recommendations made in the report are based upon the feedback received from over 150 different experts including consultants, engineers, project developers, utilities, regulators, clean energy advocates, researchers and geologists.

    "If federal and state policies address the issues identified in this report, the potential for geothermal development is incredible," says Daniel Fleischmann, the author of the report. "While the U.S. geothermal industry already has close to 60 projects and over 2000 megawatts in the pipeline - the development of which will double current capacity - much, much more is possible."

    According to the report, "If policymakers are serious about energy independence and reducing the emission of greenhouse gases and toxic pollutants, they must develop a comprehensive approach supporting geothermal development as one of several resources that can help meet these goals." According to the report, such an approach requires that policymakers:

  • Extend the production tax credit (PTC) so that geothermal facilities have the time they need to comply;
  • Provide incentives for geothermal distributed generation and direct use projects;
  • Fully fund and diversify the USDOE Geothermal Technologies Program;
  • Facilitate strong interagency coordination on transmission issues, environmental reviews, leasing, and permitting for geothermal development on federal lands; and
  • Update reconnaissance for both direct use and power purposes.


  • "The geothermal industry is now in a position to make significant progress, take advantage of ongoing momentum and invest in new technologies," the report states. "With high energy prices, growing populations requiring additional energy supplies, and new technological advancements and applications the industry is heading towards a tipping point where what was theoretical will become standard."

    To download the report free of charge, please visit the GEA website. An Executive Summary (12 pages) and Full Report (140 pages) are both available at http://www.geo-energy.org/publications/reports.asp.


    This report, along with another new report on enhanced geothermal energy potential from MIT [previous post] are proof positive that Geothermal Energy is far from a tapped out, mature technology. Not only is there considerable untapped geothermal energy potential available using existing technologies - i.e. binary power plants - the potential for new technologies like enhanced geothermal energy/hot dry rock technology to open up vast reserves of geothermal energy is huge.

    It is expected that despite President Bush's lip-service to renewable energy in his State of the Union, his 2007 budget proposal will 'zero out' funding for Department of Energy geothermal research programs, arguing that geothermal is a mature and developed technology needing no DOE support. Considering these two reports, this argument is ludicrious.

    Geothermal energy has vast untapped potential and new technologies can expand that potential. And unlike wind or solar power, geothermal offers extremely reliable baseload power, meaning it can easily displace coal-fired power plants and become a major contributor to a sustainable energy future and help combat global warming.

    The DOE geothermal research budget should be expanded, not axed, and government support to encourage geothermal energy development should be redoubled. Geothermal energy can play an integral part in fostering energy independence, combatting global warming, and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels while contributing to rural economic development, all goals that deserve government support.

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