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Published on April 26th, 2014 | by Glenn Meyers


Global Geothermal Market Is Growing

April 26th, 2014 by  

Originally published on Green Building Elements.

The following GEA release provides solid information about the geothermal market.

New GEA Report Details Trends in Global Geothermal Market

A new report from the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), released [this week] at the organization’s International Geothermal Showcase in Washington, D.C., reveals the international power market is booming, with a sustained growth rate of 4% to 5%. The “2014 Annual U.S. & Global Geothermal Power Production Report” finds almost 700 projects currently under development in 76 countries. Threats caused by climate change and the need for a renewable energy source that can satisfy both firm and flexible grid needs are among the key factors driving the international community to invest in geothermal power.

GEA chart figure_7_developing_pcas

International geothermal market growth was up, while stateside growth held steady; 85 MW of the total global 530 MW of new geothermal capacity in 2013 was in the U.S., according to the new GEA report. U.S. growth was flat because of policy barriers, gridlock at the federal level, low natural gas prices and inadequate transmission infrastructure.

“While there was a modest downturn in capacity additions, the Industry Update also underscores the tremendous untapped potential for geothermal energy,” said GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell. According to the report, the geothermal industry was working on 977MW of new capacity (Planned Capacity Additions or PCA’s) at sites that hold over 3,092MW of power potential in eight western states, the GEA report indicates (see Figure 7).

U.S. additions in Utah, Nevada, California, and New Mexico kept the industry on the map domestically in 2013, and future growth looks promising. “The geothermal resource base is still largely untapped,” noted Ben Matek, GEA’s Industry Analyst. “With new initiatives in Nevada, California and Oregon moving to recognize the values of geothermal power, we are optimistic that state policies could spark another period of growth in geothermal power over the next decade,” he added.

In 2013, 25 pieces of legislation in 13 U.S. states were enacted specifically to address geothermal power and heating systems, creating a foundation for the environment needed to foster geothermal growth in these states. Past evidence shows successful policy initiatives have translated into growth; in Nevada, for example, which leads the way as one of the most business-friendly environments, the number of developing projects (45) more than doubles that of California (25).

The Salton Sea Resource Area is a new initiative of California that could be a significant source of growth for the U.S. geothermal power industry if several policy barriers are overcome in the near term. The Imperial Irrigation District has pledged to build up to 1,700 MW of geothermal power by the early 2030’s at the Salton Sea. If successful, this initiative could increase the nameplate capacity of the U.S. by 50% over the next 20 years.

Elsewhere in the U.S., the Public Utility Commissions in Nevada and Oregon recently created potentially beneficial opportunities for geothermal power, while the Washington State Assembly clarified confusing legislation. New Mexico debuted its first geothermal power plant in 2013, with work by Cyrq Energy, and the state showed legislative support for future projects when it passed H.B 85. The legislation matches federal royalty rates and requires geothermal resources be managed as renewable resources. In Alaska, the City of Akutan is supporting a promising project, which may lead to the state’s first utility-scale geothermal power plant.

Some myths have surfaced that geothermal power is reaching its potential capacity in states like California and Nevada. These states still have a significant amount of known untapped potential that could be used domestically or exported to surrounding states. Overall, GEA estimates about 50% of California’s known resources, 60% of Nevada’s, and 60% of Utah’s are still untapped.

Globally, significant geothermal development growth is expected over the next few years. In East Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia are building power plants greater than 100 MW. For comparison the average size of a geothermal power plant in the U.S. is about 25 MW. South American nations such as Chile, Argentina, Colombia and Honduras have significant potential, but are in the early stages of identifying their resources. The GEA estimates that Chile is actively developing 50 projects and prospects.

These are only a sampling of the vast increases globally; looking at the numbers in Figure 2 of the new GEA report, there could be a time in the near future when the United States is no longer the world leader in geothermal energy production. For instance, the U.S. has about 1,000 MW in the pipeline and 3,400 MW nameplate capacity for a total of 4,400 MW. Meanwhile, Indonesia has 4,400 MW of planned capacity additions announced in the pipeline alone.


In terms of established nameplate capacity, the U.S. (with a total in 2013 of 3,442 MW) still outpaces the Philippines (1,904 MW in 2013) and Indonesia (1,333 MW), the world’s second and third ranked geothermal energy producers.

Representatives from 34 countries [came] together at the GEA Geothermal Showcase this week in Washington DC. Showcase participants represented more than half of all geothermal projects worldwide. Together, these projects could mean over 10,000 MW of new geothermal power and would represent around $45 billion in new investment.

At the Showcase, GEA will host a media availability with geothermal industry leaders at 12:15pm ET to discuss the release of GEA’s new, consolidated annual update on the U.S. and international geothermal industries, as well as geothermal trends and governmental policies in the U.S. and around the world.

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About the Author

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

  • Bob_Wallace

    ” 60% of Utah’s are still untapped.”

    That number might be low. Recently a very large geothermal field was discovered in SE Utah.

    One would think there would be an excellent case to be made for installing a lot of geothermal there and selling the power to SoCal. The HVDC Intermountain Intertie line is already in place and transmission space is being freed up as coal is pushed off.

  • Wayne Williamson

    Its to bad that Wyoming has so much coal. They could probably power the whole state on geothermal.
    Never really thought about Hawaii, but they could probably do the same thing(no coal though;-)

  • David Zarembka

    Here in Kenya where I live has already identified 10,000 MW of geothermal potential, 240 MW will be going online in the next few months, one drilling gave a 30 MW result, By 2017 Kenya expects to have 30%of its electricity from geothermal sources. In other words, rich, high electricity consumption America is waaaaaaaaaaaay behind.

    • LookingForward

      Sounds good David.
      That will make electricity cheaper and thus more electricity use and help Kenya’s economy grow.
      I hope renewables will boom in Kenya and other developing countries!!!

  • Matt

    “with a sustained growth rate of 4% to 5%” still on the very low end of the growth curve. Talking of increasing nameplate capacity 50% over 20 years (from a small base) means it will still be a small player. Still waiting for the “enhanced” geothermal to kick in.

    • JamesWimberley

      Current hydrothermal energy is nice but limited by suitable sites. EGS really would be revolutionary. It’s astonishing how little money is going into it, given the potential upside.

      I know of only four operational EGS wells and plants – the pioneer one at Soultz in Alsace, Landau further down the Rhine valley, the Habanero complex in the Australian outback, and Newberry in Oregon. Creating the reservoirs with injected water (it is fracking, but at lower pressures and without dangerous chemicals) seems to be quite well understood, The killer is the very high cost of drilling through granite and other basement rocks. Foro Energy has a promising innovation using a medium-power laser (10 kw or so) integrated into the drill bit. The laser softens the rock for the drill bit to remove.

      • TCFlood


        Do you know of any recent good summaries of EGS developments? I have the MIT report on EGS of 2006 ( that reads like a cheerleading session. Then there is the DOE report of 2008 ( that corrects some of the excesses of the MIT report and admits of significant uncertainties including well-drilling costs, the general efficacy of reservoir creation by hydraulic “stimulation” (fracking as you described), and whether
        reservoir fluid flow rates and conductive heat flow rates from the geological resource will be sufficient to be worthwhile.

        A project in Basel Switzerland was shut down in 2006 because of a series of earthquakes, the strongest 3.4. (Basil was leveled by a quake in 1365.) Production from an EGS plant in Landau Germany was reduced after a series of quakes in 2009.

        Perhaps a good recent summary will help me understand your

        • Bob_Wallace

          This might be of use…

          A new report from the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), released [this week] at the organization’s International Geothermal Showcase in Washington, D.C., reveals the international power market is booming, with a sustained growth rate of 4% to 5%.

          The “2014 Annual U.S. & Global Geothermal Power Production Report” finds almost 700 projects currently under development in 76 countries.

          • TCFlood

            I read the blurb above. That’s, I believe, about hydrothermal which will be a useful contributor but probably not a major player.
            The enhanced geothermal systems that JW is talking about could be a much more import contributor if it were to work, but I haven’t been keeping up with it well enough to know if any of the important questions are really getting answered yet. There are very big issues about the nature of the behavior of the system between the injection well and the production well and the reproducibility and predictability of that behavior. My impression was that most of these questions will require empirical answers with a fairly substantial data base.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Oops, I commented from email and didn’t look at which article you were posting to. My bad.

            Enhanced. I think James gave you the meat. Still a problem drilling big holes through rock. AltaRock did the multiple zone thing about a year ago.

            “…the company has been able to create multiple, stimulated geothermal areas, from a single drilled well. “This has never been done before,” said Petty, who has been involved with geothermal stimulation since the 1970s.”


            They used an existing well someone else had drilled earlier.

            There were two interesting approaches to making big holes in hard rocks. One used thermal spallation drilling and it sounded like they were on to something but they’ve gone silent as far as my Google Alerts are concerned.


            The other used thermal expansion to work its way through the rock. Again, nothing but silence for quite some time.


            I read something recently about using lasers to break through. Foro Company.


            My impression is that everything is held up waiting for someone to figure out the drilling problem.

          • TCFlood

            Thanks, that’s helpful info.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You might want to read up on the Habanero project in AU. There’s some recent news (not good) but I’ve forgotten the details.


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