Global geothermal power capacity could be on its way toward doubling, according to a new industry report, as projects unfold around the world, with a number of countries closing in on putting their first geothermal power stations to work.
The Geothermal Energy Association, in its 2013 Geothermal Power: International Market Overview, said 70 countries are moving forward with nearly 700 projects. The group said that as of August 2013, 11,765 megawatts of geothermal capacity were on-line -- and 11,776 megawatts of new capacity were in the early stages of development or under construction.Source: Geothermal Energy Association
Geothermal is well regarded as a source of baseline energy, but has long struggled to grow due to the hit-or-miss nature (and thus high cost) of developing potential resources.
“There are so many projects moving forward that just a year or two ago were ideas on paper. This demonstrates how quickly the geothermal industry is growing internationally,” Ben Matek, the report’s author, said in a statement [PDF].
Uganda, France, Tanzania, Chile, and Rwanda were singled out as countries that should have their first operational geothermal power plants within the next few years. Elsewhere around the world, the country breaking through with new geothermal the fastest might be Kenya.
“Right now, 296 megawatts of the over approximately 1,000 megawatts of geothermal under development in Kenya are physically under construction,” the GEA said. “If all projects are completed on time, Kenya will lead the world with substantial additions to their geothermal infrastructure over the next decade and become a center of geothermal technology on the African continent.”Source: Geothermal Energy Association
Indonesia has almost 4,100 megawatts in the pipeline for development and 860 megawatts physically under construction. Indonesia ranks second for developing projects, with 57 projects in some phase of development. While no more plants are expected to come on-line this year in Indonesia, if all the plants are finished by their publicly announced completion dates, Indonesia could reach almost 2 gigawatts of installed capacity by 2018.
The United States is the world leader in geothermal, with 3,386 megawatts of installed capacity as of the end of 2012, and it has the most projects in development right now. But much of the attention in the U.S. is now focused on a particular type of geothermal: enhanced geothermal system projects. EGS involves creating tons of tiny crevices in hot, dry rock formations. This is done by forcing pressurized fluid down into the rock and causing what could be termed little earthquakes. The crevices that develop can then be filled with fluid, which is heated and run up from the ground, where the heat is extracted to make steam. (The fluid can then sent back down in a more or less closed loop.)
In April, the U.S. Department of Energy said an Ormat Technologies EGS project that it backed with $5.4 million (to go along with $2.6 million in private-sector money) had boosted production at a Churchill County, Nevada geothermal field by 38 percent, pumping 1.7 megawatts of new power to the grid.
2013 Geothermal Power: International Market Overview is available online as a 35-page PDF.Editor's note: This article is reposted in its original form from EarthTechling. Author credit goes to Pete Danko.