Some 58 new geothermal energy projects now are under development in the United States, according to a survey by the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) - an industry trade organization. “This represents the U.S. geothermal industry's most dramatic wave of expansion since the 1980s,” notes Karl Gawell, GEA's executive director.
These projects, when developed, would provide up to 2,250 megawatts of electric power capacity, generating approximately 18 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.
These additions would serve the needs of 1.8 million households, producing electric power roughly equivalent to all U.S. wind facilities operating in 2005. This almost would double installed U.S. geothermal power capacity to more than 5,000 MW, according to GEA.
“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.,” states Gawell. “The bad news is that some projects already are being put on hold because of the impending deadline for the federal production tax credit,” he adds.
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 United States wind industry over the past decade. But, the deadline for plants to be on-line and qualify for the credit was extended for only two years, or to December 31, 2007.
“Geothermal and other baseload renewable power plants take several years to build and many of these plants can't be on-line by the December 31, 2007 deadline,” Gawell states.
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.