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50,000 MW Geothermal Goal Set By Senate Bill

A bill introduced by Montana Senator Jon Tester would set a goal of 50,000 MW of geothermal energy by 2025. (Oregon Senator Ron Wyden co-sponsored it.)


“Montana’s public lands contain some of the best renewable energy sources in the world, and we should be leading the nation to increase our energy independence and reduce the amount of carbon we put into the atmosphere. Developing Montana’s geothermal resources will expand our energy portfolio and create good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced,” explained Tester said in a statement.

The bill would also make it easier for oil and gas developers to produce geothermal energy because they would not have to compete for leases in the conventional manner.

Currently, the BLM has well over 800 geothermal leases but only 59 have the status of currently producing, totaling about 1500 MW of geothermal capacity on public lands, with about 1.5 million homes receiving electricity from them.

Tester’s comment about job creation appears to be well-founded, “According to a report by the Western Governors Association (WGA), near-term development of 5,600 megawatts of geothermal energy would result in the creation of almost 100,000 jobs.” Adding almost 100,000 jobs would be most welcome, and they would be skilled jobs at that. Of course, new geothermal facilities would provide clean electricity to consumers that otherwise might rely on the kind made by burning fossil fuels.

There seems to be something of a cascade effect happening in terms of new clean power when it is combined with electric vehicles. One constant criticism of electric vehicles by some people has been that they use dirty electricity – in other words, from coal or natural gas. However, when more clean sources of electricity are developed like  geothermal, wind and solar, this is no longer the case.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration has estimated that geothermal in the U.S. could quadruple from 2012 to 2040. Some research has indicated that enhanced geothermal systems could allow developers to expand geothermal up to 100,000 MW in the next several decades. Google has invested in this technology.

Image Credit: Phil Armitage

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