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New Study Says U.S. Leads World in Geothermal Energy Production

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday October 14th, 2009 | 2 Comments

180px-Krafla_Geothermal_Station

The U.S. leads the world in online geothermal energy capacity and is one of the main countries that will increase its capacity, according to a report by the U.S. Geothermal Energy Association. California and Nevada are the leading states in developing geothermal energy, and make up almost 97 percent of currently active geothermal power capacity. Their nearest competitor is Utah, and they outpace it 65-fold.

The combined confirmed and unconfirmed capacity under development in Nevada could end up being 3,373.4 megawatts (MW), or 7.5 times its current capacity. California has up to 2,435.8 MW in development. Geothermal continues to be concentrated in California, and in 2005, California’s geothermal capacity exceeded that of every country.

As of last month, geothermal power was being generated in eight states: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Other states are soon to be added, including Oregon, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

In 2007, geothermal energy was four percent of renewable energy consumption in the U.S. Geothermal energy is set to increase more than threefold in the U.S., according to the report. The total installed geothermal capacity in U.S. increased since 2006/2007 when it was at 2,850 megawatts. As of September it was 3,152 MW with 6,442.9 MW of new capacity under development. Unconfirmed projects could increase new capacity to 7,109.9 MW.

Is geothermal too dangerous?

Geothermal energy poses a risk because deep drilling can cause earth tremors and even trigger an earthquake. In 2006, a geothermal project drilled three miles into the earth’s crust in Basel, Switzerland triggered a magnitude 3.4 earthquake. Rearchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) developed “cage-like nanostructure” which can store carbon. The nanostructures act as heat-storage particles in liquids like alkanes. The researchers are refining blends with the hope of improving power production efficiency at geothermal plants by 30 to 40 percent.

PNNL is receiving $1.2 million as one of 21 DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy grants through the Geothermal Technologies Program, according to Popular Science.

“Some novel research on nanomaterials used to capture carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels actually led us to this discovery,” according to Pacific National Laboratory fellow Pete McGrail. “Scientific breakthroughs can come from some very unintuitive connections.”

McGrail added, “By the end of the calendar year, we plan to have a functioning bench-top prototype generating electricity,” said McGrail. “If successful, enhanced geothermal systems like this could become an important energy source.”


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