U.S. geothermal is hot

photo_00422.jpgInstalled U.S. capacity of baseload geothermal power is 2958 MW. Our geothermal power is set to double over the next several years, according to “U.S. Geothermal Power Production and Development Update,” by the U.S. Geothermal Energy Association.

The following table gives the power currently on-line, in Phase I (secured rights, exploration drilling), Phase II (confirmation being done), Phase III (final permits), and Phase IV (production drilling underway, facility under construction):

State Online
August 2008
Phase I Phase II Phase III Phase IV
Megawatts (MW)
Alaska 0.4 35-75 18-25
Arizona 2-20
California 2555.3 321.7-349.7 316-327 80-150 189.9
Colorado 10
Florida 0.2-1
Hawaii 35 Unspec 8
Idaho 13 125-200 100 26
Nevada 318 392-612 216-409 250-528 224.5-352.5
New Mexico 0.24 10
Oregon 112.2 25-30 160.2-180.2
Utah 36 214 20 10
Washington Unspec
Wyoming 0.2
Total 2957.9 998.1-1379.9 897-1113 546.4-914.4 424.4-552.4

According to the report

In 2007, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) held geothermal lease sales in Idaho/Utah and California/Nevada. This resulted in the sale of 140,484 acres of land.

New sales, based upon industry expressions of interest, are just starting. On August 5, 2008, the BLM held a geothermal lease sale in Nevada, selling a total of 105, 211 acres in 35 parcels. The sale brought in a record-breaking $28.2 million.

The BLM has also announced a lease sale for parcels in Utah for November 2008. Coming sales are also expected in California and Oregon. Additional projects are expected to result from both the 2007 and 2008 lease sales.

— Earl K.


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12 Responses to U.S. geothermal is hot

  1. Bob Wallace says:

    Out of the 2900 mW on line is any of it the type of drill-down that would be required to tap into the “blue” areas or is it all the sort of developed surface geothermal that one finds in the Calistoga-type sites?

  2. Earl Killian says:

    Bob, I only looked at the most recent California project (2000):

    The project consists of 10 generating plants in the Salton Sea Known Geothermal Resource Area, or SSKGRA, in Southern California’s Imperial Valley. The plants produce electricity solely from naturally occurring geothermal steam. Geothermal production wells tap into superheated water reservoirs thousands of feet beneath the Earth’s surface to release tremendous pressure, caused by the hot water, which rushes to the surface. There, steam is separated and used to drive turbines to generate electricity.

    It doesn’t sound like surface geothermal, but it also isn’t the sort that requires injection of water from the surface.

  3. Peter Wood says:

    We should be using all of the massive high powered oil drilling rigs around for instead developing geothermal resources.

  4. David B. Benson says:

    Far from geothermal, but I found

    “Algae in excess – harvesting for Life”:

    quite interesting as a way to clean up some ‘dead spots’. If done on a large enough scale, might possibly provide a source of profitable energy?

  5. David B. Benson says:

    And here is a story about two men who made the attempt this last summer to go skim up algae blooms:

    or at least that was what they wanted to try…

  6. TomG says:

    Nothing is forever, but geothermal has more future than oil.
    Drill, baby, drill…for heat!

  7. Bob Wallace says:

    I think drill down geothermal requires larger diameter holes than can be made with oil drilling rigs. Seems I read that development is being slowed by the lack of appropriate equipment.

    Drill down/inject water/harvest steam is an ideal solution as it can be installed close to point of use in much of the US. Produces 24/7 and wouldn’t require massive HVDC transmission line installation.

  8. Cyril R. says:

    There’s some interesting work going on about developing non-drillbit technology, such as hydrogen combustion fracturing, which should make drilling deep really easy, fast, and cheap.

    Keeping my fingers crossed…

  9. Bob Wallace says:

    “hydrogen combustion fracturing”

    Would you please flesh that out a bit? I did the google and found nothing.

  10. Dill Weed says:

    Drill, Baby, Drill!!


    – Dill Weed

  11. Earl Killian says:

    Bob Wallace, if Cyril means what I think he means, it is sometimes called thermal spallation. The basic idea is described here:
    You might find slides 47-51 of
    also useful.
    The MIT report on the future of geothermal
    is useful in general, but leaves out advanced drilling techniques.

  12. Earl Killian says:

    Geothermal just got hotter:

    The USGS said yesterday,

    The results of this assessment show that the United States has an estimated 9,057 Megawatts-electric (MWe) of power generation potential from domestic, conventional, identified geothermal systems, 30,033 MWe of power generation potential from conventional, undiscovered geothermal resources, and 517,800 MWe of power generation potential from unconventional (high temperature, low permeability) Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) resources.

    That is enough power to shut down all US coal plants! (312,956 MWe in 2006)