In 2009, global installed power capacity was nearly 11 GW, generating over 67 TWh of electricity. Much of this was generated outside of the CEM group of countries in places such as the Philippines (10 TWh), Iceland (4.5 TWh) and New Zealand (4 TWh).
Global leaders in geothermal power generation include the US, the Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico and Italy. Capacity has grown steadily in the United States and Indonesia over the last decade. Both of these countries have extensive experience with geothermal power; with a large additional potential, they aim to expand development. Geothermal energy will be able to deliver even more significant contribution and on a global scale if efforts to develop technologies tapping into hot dry rock resources like enhanced geothermal systems prove to be successful.
Currently, geothermal energy powers only about two million homes in the US, but the total number of geothermal projects is expected to increase by 12 percent in 2011, according to the Geothermal Energy Association. Geothermal energy is a renewable source of energy that comes from the heat that is below the Earth’s surface. Geothermal exchange pumps, buried several hundred feet below ground, are increasing in popularity because the return on investment is high. These pumps can help power homes and cut heating bills.
One such place where geothermal pumps are being used to power homes is at the Wild Point Preserve, a housing development southeast of Denver. The development is using both geothermal and solar energy to power homes. Once it is complete, it is expected to be the largest high-efficiency neighborhood in the country. Al Wallace, president of the Energy Environmental Corporation, explained that while up-front costs can be high, geothermal pumps more than pay for themselves in the long run.
"With a ground source heat pump … for every dollar you spend on heating or cooling you get five dollars-worth of heating or cooling in the heating pump," he said. Like small scale projects, the upfront costs of building a large-scale geothermal power plant are high. But as the price of fossil fuels increases, so does the demand for geothermal energy. Though now only about one percent of the energy, insiders expect it will rise to as much as 10 percent of the energy in the US in the future.
It is not the only source of renewable energy, but as John Lund, Principal Engineer of the Geothermal Program for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, pointed out: "It runs when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow." Geothermal heat resources can be used for a wide range of heat applications such as space and district heating, spa and swimming pool heating, greenhouse and soil heating, aquaculture pond heating and industrial process heating. Total global installed capacity of geothermal heat (excluding heat pumps) equalled 15 GWth in 2009 with a yearly heat production of 223 PJ (5.3 Mtoe). This increases from 139 PJ in 2000 and 175 TJ in 2005.
Ground source heat pumps are sometimes ranked under geothermal heat production. Deployment of geothermal ground source heat pumps accounted for rapid acceleration of production levels from 23 PJ in 2000 to 215 PJ (5.1 Mtoe) in 2010. Achieving the potential of deployment of geothermal power will require policy support to overcome the barriers of high initial capital cost, resource development risk, lack of awareness about geothermal energy and environmental issues. The most widely adopted mechanisms for geothermal heat are direct capital grants and tax credits for consumer purchases of a ground source heat pump.
US federal tax incentives for geothermal power were expanded through the 2009 economic stimulus legislation. USD 350 million was provided to the DOE Geothermal Technologies Programme, with 2010 seeing the approval of many new projects.
The Indonesian government has objectives to develop over 12 GW of new geothermal power capacity by 2025, and will support this with tax incentives.
Kenya hopes to achieve 490 MW of geothermal power by 2012 and 4 GW within 20 years, and has amended its FITto include geothermal energy.
Germany amended its Renewable Energy Sources Act in 2009 to increase the tariffs for geothermal facilities, with a FIT bonus for the use of EGS technologies of EUR 0.04/kWh. Funds from the Market Incentive Programme are available for installations harvesting deep geothermal energy for electricity and heat generation.
In the United Kingdom, the Deep Geothermal Challenge Fund awarded GBP 5.1 million through 2010 in support of six demonstration projects. Starting in April 2011, an expansion to the renewable feed]in tariffs is planned to low]carbon heating technologies, including ground source heat pumps’.
In 2010, Australia committed AD 1.1 billion in the form of tax credits and rebates to geothermal development. The largest global project under development is in the Cooper Basin, with the potential to support up to 10 GW in capacity.
The European Deep Geothermal Energy programme test site for EGS in France began electricity production in 2010.