A new report by the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) shows strong growth in new geothermal power projects continuing through 2009. US Geothermal Power Production and Development Update, September 2009 identifies 144 new geothermal projects under development in fourteen states that could represent as much as 7,100 MW of new baseload power capacity. When added to the 3,100 MW of existing capacity, 10 gigawatts of geothermal power appears to be feasible.
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The report found a total of 144 projects under development that could add between 4,699.9 and 7,109.9 MW of power to the US geothermal energy output. At the high end, that would be enough baseload power to supply about 20% of California's total electric power in 2008—or enough generating capacity to supply the power needs of about 7.2 million people.
The number of states with geothermal projects under development also increased, from 12 to 14 over the past six months, with the addition of two oil-field co-production projects in Louisiana and Mississippi.
While the report shows generally good news, it also shows a decline in projects currently listed as under construction. According to the GEA this was due to 4 new geothermal power projects moving to completion, but also reflects difficulty obtaining final permits and difficulty obtaining financing. The recession, as the report confirms, is having an impact on the industry, according to the GEA.
Financing is expensive and scarce, and available lenders are requiring much more work be done before they will finance projects. We hope the tax, loan guarantee, and DOE spending provisions of the stimulus bill will help turn this around, but there have been delays implementing these initiatives by the federal agencies.
It also appears that some projects seeking final construction permits are having difficulty acquiring them because of the tremendous demands being placed on federal, state, and local agencies by a wave of renewable energy project applications. These geothermal projects would otherwise be ready to go bringing new jobs and spurring economic growth, so it’s important that federal and state agencies don’t neglect the needs of geothermal projects.— Karl Gawell, Executive Director of GEA