Geothermal power receives boost from US Department of Energy

October 07 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Environment   Year: 2015   Rating: 2

Geothermal energy could emerge as a vast resource for the next century if we can engineer next generation systems.

Geothermal power generation gained considerable attention in 2007 following the release of the MIT’s study‘The Future of Geothermal Energy’ which estimated that within the US alone 100 MW of energy could be established by 2050. Apparently the US government is now taking this recommendation seriously.

Yesterday the US Department of Energy announced support for 21 Research, Development and Demonstration Projects tapping $78 million in public-private partnerships. The DOE’s goal is to prove the technical feasibility of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) by 2015.

The Earth Policy institute reports that in 2008 total worldwide installed geothermal power capacity passed 10,000 megawatts producing enough electricity to meet the needs of 60 million people. The US leads the world in geothermal energy power generation with 2,900 MW followed by the Philippines, Mexico, Indonesia, Italy, Japan and a dozen other countries.

While the global outlook for geothermal remain positive, the US market is receiving considerable attention due to its growth prospects in the years ahead. Nordic bank Glitnir estimates that ‘the overall number of projects has increased and projects currently underway would expand installed capacity in the U.S. by a 100-130% in the years to come.’

It is possible that geothermal energy sector will never become a darling of the energy sector as the list of award recipients hints at the no-frills futures to geothermal energy. Extracting this form of energy is an engineering intensive job and there is still a considerable amount of academic field work ahead to make EGS feasible. While the majority of funds went to universities and research institutes, there are some familiar energy industry names including Baker-Hughes (Houston, TX), GE Energy (Niskayuna, N.Y.), Chevron and Schlumberger (Sugar Land, TX). Given the potentially high returns on tapping geo-engineering skills we might see more ‘Big Energy’ developers throw their resources into expanding geothermal capacity around the world.

Image credit: Lydus Flickr CC License

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