Geothermal power in 2014 witnessed continued growth, more countries developing projects, and an increase in on-line capacity of between 4% and 5% for the third year in a row.
With 700 MW (megawatts) of new additions, the global market reached upwards of 12.7 GW (gigawatts) of geothermal power operational throughout 24 countries.
By comparison the global industry added about 600 MW in 2013.
As of the end of 2014 there are also 11.7 GW of capacity additions in development and 1.8 GW of power under construction in 80 countries. These trends show that geothermal’s place in the global energy market is secure and steady.
To maintain this growth, national-level governments sought policies that will support in-house electricity generation without adding to the threat of global warming. Meanwhile, multi-lateral organizations focused on early risk mitigation. The global geo power industry is on track to reach 20 GW of on-line capacity, if not more, by 2024.
International Market Developments: U.S. companies are taking their experience and technology overseas and inspiring other nations to create favorable conditions for trade. Emerging economies in East Africa, Central America, and the South Pacific experienced the fastest growth this year. Some highlights:
Central America: Costa Rica received a $550 million loan from Japan for geothermal projects totaling 165 MW, and El Salvador reached a new milestone, with 25% of its electricity coming from geothermal.
East Africa: The world’s largest flash plant is a new 280-MW addition at the Olkaria field in Kenya. Meanwhile Ethiopia and the World Bank plan to add four million people to the grid in the next five years.
South Pacific: Construction began in Indonesia on what will be the largest geothermal plant ever built, the 330-MW Sarulla project. The Philippines’ Energy department announced plans to increase geothermal to 3.3 GW by 2030.
Internationally, the value of geothermal is recognized and supported by several new laws and policies.
Indonesia: Geothermal development was separated from mining laws and got a higher price for electricity produced.
Mexico: The local energy market opened up to private and foreign participation. The new law included specific guidelines for geothermal.
U.S. Market in Planning Mode: No new power plants were put online in the U.S. this year, in part due to lapsed federal production tax credits for new projects as well as lowered demand across the market. But future development was a hot topic in western states.
California: AB 2363 directed the Public Utilities Commission to improve its renewable power valuation process, a bright spot for geothermal’s future prospects. The state legislature also came close to supporting the Salton Sea Restoration and Renewable Energy Initiative and is expected to take up legislation for the Initiative again in the new year.
Nevada announced new projects underway.
New Mexico introduced its first geothermal power plant.
Oregon: spearheaded new initiatives that recognize the value of geothermal power. The industry is optimistic that policies like Oregon’s will spread to other states and spark another period of growth in the U.S.
Geothermal Technology Evolving: Geothermal scientists made notable advancements in mineral recovery, hybrid power systems and Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS):
Mineral recovery: Simbol Materials’ project in southern California could become the first to produce lithium and other minerals from geothermal brine.
Hybrid power systems: Enel Green Power opened the first solar thermal hybrid plant and began construction on the first biomass thermal hybrid.
EGS: The U.S. Department of Energy supported ongoing research and introduced its Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy program for a subsurface laboratory.
Outlook for 2015: Looking ahead to 2015, the energy market sees continued pressure to address climate change, and there’s a growing recognition of geothermal’s unique grid reliability benefits. Geothermal companies expect to continue their work domestically and internationally to answer the needs of the marketplace for clean, reliable power with improved performance, flexibility and availability.
Events in 2015: GEA’s series of events in 2014 brought together geothermal industry and policy leaders from around the world for educational benefit and to serve as the front line for doing business. Attendance and global representation at GEA events were both at a high in 2014. GEA Events in 2015 will include:
February 24, 2015, State of the Geothermal Industry Briefing, Washington, DC
June 3-4, 2015, National Geothermal Summit, Reno, NV
September 20-23, 2015, GEA Geothermal Energy Expo and GRC Annual Meeting, Reno, NV