The industry, which has been providing clean, renewable baseload power in America for over 50 years, is expanding into new regions with the support of increased funding and technological advancements.
“Geothermal is poised for explosive growth. With many projects reaching completion in the next few years we expect to see over $6 billion in new investment, thousands of new jobs, and significant expansion of the US industry by 2013,” said GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell. ‘But,’ he cautioned, ‘geothermal projects take several years to build, and with projects facing unexpected permitting delays and federal tax credits expiring at the end of 2013, there is considerable uncertainty about the future.’
“The first decades of the 21st century are rapidly becoming a new era of geothermal transformation. Nations all over the world are eagerly exploring their geothermal resources,” said keynote speaker The Honorable President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of Iceland, whose country boasts 100% clean energy for all electricity production. “There is indeed already a race on for access to experts, engineering companies and those with technological know-how. It is of utmost importance for the United States to be in the forefront of that race, to maintain a position of leadership; not just for the benefit of the American economy but also in order to demonstrate excellence in a century which will see clean energy as a key to successful global future.”
Both private capital and public support are coming into the geothermal market. Private loans backed by Department of Energy loan guarantees are bringing geothermal plants online in Oregon and Nevada, and in the past year the Department of Energy (DOE) has funded geothermal research, development, and demonstration projects in 39 states worth $400 million.
The growth in finance comes as transmission networks and policies are congealing to support new geothermal development. Initiatives such as $25 million in DOE funding granted to The Western Electricity Coordinating Council and the Western Governors’ Association have allowed plans to come together to ensure geothermal power can go from where it is made to where it is needed.
As 2011 unfolds there will be a new surge in geothermal power projects. Around 500 to 700 MW of power projects are expected to enter their final construction phase, adding approximately 3,000 construction jobs this summer.
Arni Magnusson, Executive Director of Islandsbanki, Iceland’s leading bank dedicated to geothermal said, “Islandsbanki’s new report finds that the United States has the largest geothermal industry in the world, as it has both the largest installed capacity and the largest development pipeline, where more than 2,300 MW of new capacity are expected to be developed by 2015. Today’s capacity is tightly controlled, with nearly 85% owned by the top four operators.”
The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) is a trade association composed of U.S. companies who support the expanded use of geothermal energy and are developing geothermal resources worldwide for electrical power generation and direct-heat uses. GEA advocates for public policies that will promote the development and utilization of geothermal resources, provides a forum for the industry to discuss issues and problems, encourages research and development to improve geothermal technologies, presents industry views to governmental organizations, provides assistance for the export of geothermal goods and services, compiles statistical data about the geothermal industry, and conducts education and outreach projects.