The global geothermal industry surpassed 12,000 MW of geothermal power operational, with about 600 MW of new geothermal power coming online globally, according to a year-end update by the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA). New geothermal power came on line in Kenya, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Turkey, and Mexico, as well as Oregon, Nevada and Utah in the United States. New project announcements have increased the resource under development to about 30,000 MW.
The international geothermal power industry is poised to place between 500 and 1,000 MW on line per year for the rest of the decade, said GEA. In 2013, new geothermal geologic studies or exploration moved forward in places as diverse as American Samoa, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Taiwan, Thailand, Uganda, the United States, and Yemen.
Financing was announced for projects in Costa Rica, Dominica, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Tanzania, and the United States, while projects in drilling and start-of-construction phases made headway in Chile, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, Montserrat, The Philippines, Rwanda, and Zambia.
GEA member commitments to financing and development stages included MidAmerican’s $1 billion pledge to extend the life of its Salton Sea, California geothermal fields. Additionally, Alstom will build the 25 MW Los Humeros III in Mexico, Alterra Power announced drilling would begin at its Mariposa, Chile site next year and construction on other international projects continued by companies including US Geothermal, Ram Power, and Ormat.
Successful Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) projects in the US were led by Calpine Corp., Ormat Technologies, and AltaRock Energy. Additionally, the 22 MW Neal Hot Springs, Oregon plant received the GEA Honors Technological Advancement Award in 2013 for being the first commercial, supercritical Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) binary power plant. It was built by US Geothermal and TAS Energy.
Although US national energy policy was gridlocked, several individual US states opened up new opportunities in 2013:
Hawaii Electric Light Company completed a geothermal Request for Proposals and is soon expected to announce the winner out of six bidders.
In California, the Imperial Irrigation District announced plans to develop 1,700 MW of new geothermal as part of an initiative supporting restoration of the Salton Sea.
In Nevada, NV Energy is looking to replace coal plants with 300 MW of renewable energy, including geothermal.
GEA President Craig Mataczynski of Gradient Resources has challenged the industry to reach 5% of total US electricity production. To reach this goal it will take advancements in geothermal technology and recognition of the full value of geothermal power.
As policy makers at the state and federal level move to address global warming and need to achieve significant emissions reductions, geothermal power’s unique abilities to replace baseload fossil fuels or firm intermittent resources provides premium value to fulfill state Renewable Portfolio Standard requirements and meet federal environmental standards—Karl Gawell, Executive Director, GEA