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U.S. geothermal infrastructure could support 7.2 million people

U.S. geothermal infrastructure could support 7.2 million people

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The U.S. could have as much as 10 gigawatts of geothermal power at its disposal if current projects under development are completed, according to a new report.

Geothermal energy production in the United States is heating up.

The U.S. could have as much as 10 gigawatts of geothermal power at its disposal if current projects under development are completed, according to a new report.

According to a new report from the Geothermal Energy Association, there are 144 new geothermal projects in 14 U.S. states currently under development. While the current U.S. geothermal infrastructure manages 3,100 megawatts, the new projects could add an additional 7,100 megawatts, or 7 gigawatts, of energy output.

(The Geothermal Energy Association is a trade association composed of U.S. companies who support the expanded use of geothermal energy.)

The geothermal energy process extracts heat from the Earth for the purpose of generating electricity to power homes. Most development in this area is concentrated at where tectonic plates meet, such as the western coasts of North and South America, the Mediterranean and east coast of Africa and East Asia.

"At the high end, that would be enough baseload power to supply about 20 percent of California's total electric power in 2008--or enough generating capacity to supply the power needs of about 7.2 million people," the GEA said in a statement.

Most current and new geothermal development is centered in Nevada and California (Nevada alone claims 64 new projects, which could add a geothermal capacity of up to 3,473 megawatts). Oregon, Utah and Idaho are also on the geothermal development map.

According to the report:

  • Nevada: 64 projects, potentially 1,876-3,473 MW
  • California: 37 projects, potentially 1,842-2,436 MW
  • Oregon: 13 projects, potentially 317-368 MW
  • Utah: 10 projects, potentially 272-332 MW
  • Idaho: 5 projects, potentially 238-326 MW
  • Alaska: 6 projects, potentially 70 to 115 MW
  • New Mexico: 1 project, potentially 20 MW
  • Arizona: 1 project, potentially 2-20 MW
  • Colorado: 1 project, potentially 10 MW
  • Hawaii: 2 projects, potentially 8 MW
  • Florida: 1 project, potentially 0.2-1 MW
  • Louisiana: 1 project, potentially .05 MW
  • Mississippi: 1 project, potentially .05 MW
  • Washington: 1 project, potential N/A

In May, President Obama allocated $350 million of the funding for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to the Department of Energy to be used to accelerate geothermal development.

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure