Stimulus Bill has Put Almost 8 GW
of Geothermal Energy on US Grid
Nov 05, 2010 - Alternative Energy Newswire
|Image: Trey Ratcliff
The geothermal industry has begun an unprecedented
expansion starting this year, as a record 7, 875
MW of geothermal projects broke ground, the Geothermal
Market Update reports this week.
While the pre-deadline dash to break ground on new
US solar projects has been getting all the coverage
these last few months, the similarly deadline-driven
geothermal projects have been able to break ground
This means that many more of them qualify to receive
a Federal grant of 30% of investment cost from the
stimulus bill, for a total of $363 million in onetime
US Recovery Act funding for geothermal energy. The
stimulus funding will continue to be a significant
driver of US geothermal development through 2011.
The funding itself is an anomaly. Geothermal has
long been the Rodney Dangerfield of clean energy,
and received absolutely no funding at all during
the Bush administration.
But the fast-track renewables development nationwide
under the stimulus bill has changed that forever.
Once on the grid, this 8 GW expansion of renewable
energy will benefit the US for decades into the future.
Once established, geothermal projects can deliver
steady energy supplies at 3-5 cents a kilowatt hour. – after
the tax incentives that save 1.9 cents a kwh. The
higher (than natural gas) cost of the initial investment
has been the expensive part of geothermal power.
Between California and Nevada alone, 31 geothermal
projects broke ground this year and will see most
of their construction happen through 2011.
While fifteen states have projects beginning, just
five states account for most of the resurgence. Only
one out of the five, Idaho, lacks the renewable energy
standards that help drive the development of renewable
energy that their utilities must procure by 2020.
Of the top four, California requires 33% of renewable
energy (and that is excluding hydro and nuclear),
Nevada and Oregon require 25%, and Utah 20% by 2020.
Smaller projects are starting in Alaska, Arizona,
Colorado, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico,
Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
Most of the Southern states missed the boat, but
Google funded a look recently at one of them, and
discovered an absolutely staggering 19 GW of potential
geothermal in West Virginia.
By comparison with an average-sized power plant
at 250 MW, many of these geothermal power plants
are small, with many ranging from just 10 MW to 70
MW. But taken all together, they will collectively
add 7,875 MW – or 8 GW – of new clean
and renewable geothermal power to the grid.