Friday, December 23, 2011


U.S. Geothermal Industry Plans 5,745 MW, Billions in Investments

The U.S. geothermal industry will start 2012 with billions in planned investments, according to Leslie Blodgett of the Geothermal Energy Association.

Writing for Renewable Energy World, Blodgett says U.S. capacity reached 3,102 MW by early 2011, and up to 5,745 MW is now in development.Some planned projects are hybrids, with Enel Green Power North America planning to integrate a 24 MW solar PV array with its existing 60 MW geothermal plant in Churchill County, Nev.

Other companies are building small modular units offsite for later installation. ElectraTherm completed one such project this year in Louisiana, generating power from brine water produced during oil and gas development. This was the first commercial application of geothermal to an existing oilfield site, and Blodgett says the technology could be applied to hundreds of oil wells.

In the coming year, Blodgett says U.S. companies will continue to take on geothermal projects overseas, especially in Japan, Indonesia, Australia and Kenya. But here in the U.S., she says Congress often overlooks geothermal. The industry is watching closely to see if a production tax credit of 2.2 cents per kWh will expire at the end of 2013 as planned, or if lawmakers will extend the incentive.

Projects that could squeak in before the PTC expires include Ormat Technologies’ Tuscarora and McGinness Hills plants in Nevada, US Geothermal’s 23 MW Neal Hot Springs project in eastern Oregon, Gradient Resources’ Patua, Nev., installation, and EnergySource’s Hudson Ranch, Calif., project.

According to CleanTech Capital GMBH, the U.S. ranks number one in geothermal energy production and is one of the top countries for geothermal growth. Worldwide, it say, 24 countries on six continents have geothermal power installed, with a total 10,715 MW of capacity. But with a combination of currently available technology and methods under development, geothermal has the potential to supply 300,000 MW, CleanTech says.

Geothermal works out as less expensive than solar and wind if one factors in the cost of the storage systems that enable solar and wind to be relied on 24 hours a day, according to Dallas Kachan, managing partner of cleantech research and advisory firm Kachan & Co., writing for Environmental Leader.