Geothermal energy, with over 10,000 MW, powering 52 million worldwide

The Geothermal Energy: International Market Update, released today at their Global Geothermal Showcase and Forum in Washington, D.C., reports that 24 countries increased power online by 20% since an International Geothermal Association report in 2005. With over 10,000 MW installed, geothermal power is providing electricity worldwide to over 52 million people.

The report finds that while growth among nations with geothermal power online was huge, there was also a staggering increase in the number of countries actively pursuing geothermal power projects. Seventy nations currently have projects under consideration, a 52% increase from the last international report compiled by GEA in 2007.

Projects under development grew the most dramatically in two regions of the world, Europe and Africa. Ten countries in Europe were listed as having geothermal projects under development in 2007, but in 2010 this has more than doubled to 24 nations. Six countries in Africa were identified in 2007, now 11 are actively working to produce geothermal power.

“The colossal growth of the international market is only a small fraction of the geothermal power potential we could be utilizing,” said GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell. “Even if we assume the lowest possible projections for geothermal potential, the vast majority of countries don’t fully use their geothermal resource.

In 1999 we identified 39 nations that could provide 100% of their electrical needs from geothermal, fully powering their countries with a clean, renewable and domestic source, but only nine of them have geothermal power online. The development potential here is very obviously tremendous. It’s as if we discovered a huge deposit of oil underneath our feet, enough to put gas in our cars forever, and didn’t use it; except this is a totally clean, renewable, and constant energy source.”

Global geothermal development is being driven in part by a number of regional institutions which, in addition to financing geothermal projects, are enhancing regional cooperation within an emerging renewable energy sector.

Examples include the African Rift Geothermal Energy Development Facility (ARGeo), which underwrites drilling risks in six African nations and is backed by UNEP and the World Bank as well as the geothermal initiatives of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development supported by European Union climate policies.

Geothermal development also appears to be trending beyond traditional hydrothermal reserves prevalent along the Ring of Fire. With development of low-temperature power and enhanced geothermal technologies, the geothermal market appears to be expanding to encompass most of the world’s nations.

This is especially true among European countries, notably France, Germany, Latvia, and the United Kingdom, all of which are currently exploring and developing local resources by employing EGS. These developments are supported by government policies (such as feed-in tariffs), which make higher-risk and higher-cost projects more feasible and are typically components of broader climate initiatives.

“The Geothermal Energy Association’s report demonstrates that geothermal energy will play a major role in how the world looks for ways to develop clean, renewable baseload energy sources in the future,” Peter Christman, president of the Pratt & Whitney Power Systems said.

“It’s exciting to learn an additional 24 countries are developing their geothermal resources and that most of these resources are predicted to be in the low temperature range. Pratt & Whitney Power Systems can help these countries harness their low temperature geothermal hot spots and provide reliable power.”

Some country-by-country highlights from the report include:

* The US continues to lead the world in geothermal electricity production with approximately 3,086 MW of installed capacity from 77 power plants.

* The Philippines now follows the US as the second highest producer of geothermal power in the world, with 1,904 MW. Energy from geothermal power makes up approximately 18% of the country’s electricity generation.

* Germany has over 150 geothermal power plant projects at some stage of development, and expects to have over 280 MW on line by 2020 according to the European Commission.

* Geothermal power plants provide 26% of the electricity in El Salvador.

* Kenya hopes to be producing 490 MW of geothermal power by 2012 and as much as 4,000 MW within 20 years.

* Turkey has a goal to reach 550 MW of geothermal power on line by 2013.

* Indonesia’s National Energy Blueprint sets a goal of 9,500 MW of geothermal power production, an 800% increase.

* Iceland derives 25% of its electricity and 90% of its heating from geothermal resources.