The US continues to be the world leader in terms of total installed geothermal energy capacity and the generation of electric power from geothermal energy. Geothermal energy is the third largest source of renewable energy in the US, behind wind energy and biomass. With the introduction of federal production tax credits in 2004, the US geothermal industry began to expand.
This growth in the geothermal power industry in the US has led to a cumulative capacity of 3,097 MW in 2010. There is also large geothermal power potential that remains untapped. Therefore, the installed geothermal power capacity is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 14.1% during 2010-2020 to reach 11,579 MW by 2020.
The capital costs associated with setting up a geothermal plant are relatively high. Moreover, it is hard to predict the potential of a given site. This is due to the expensive examination of the properties of the rock, such as permeability and hardness, and properties of the water, such as its corrosiveness. Due to these fundamental constraints, government support is of utmost importance, especially in the areas of exploration and facilitation.
The US and the Philippines have already set examples for government support. Several federal agencies in the US, especially the US DoE, the Bureau of Land Management, and the US Geological Survey, are involved in designing and promoting technology support for the geothermal industry in the country. The Philippines allows private players to construct, operate and sell power to its grid through a Build-Operate-Transfer scheme (BOT). Driven by these instances, other countries are expected to implement similar supportive policy frameworks.
Flash is the most developed and commonly used technology. It is followed by dry steam and binary technology. In 2010, flash technology accounted for 62.7% of the total installed capacity. Flash plants are common and are found in most countries with geothermal capacity, including the US, the Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico, Italy and Iceland. Flash technology is most intensively used in the Philippines, Indonesia, Italy, New Zealand and Japan.