Geothermal Power

NSPE Position Statement No. 1758
Approved: July 2010

Geothermal energy is used for both power generation and direct utilization in the United States. Geothermal electrical power plants are found primarily in the western United States where most of the recent volcanic and mountain building activity has occurred. Recent plant additions in Alaska, Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wyoming have added 500 megawatts of new electrical capacity in the last five years. The two largest concentrations of plants are located at The Geysers in northern California and the Imperial Valley in southern California. Although geothermal energy represents only a fraction of the projected 25% of new renewables sources expected to be developed by 2025, capacity has been growing at an annual rate of nearly 4% over the 2005—10 period. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates with reasonable probability that electrical power generation from identified sources in 12 western states will triple in the next 30 years.

The direct utilization of geothermal energy includes the heating of pools and spas, greenhouses and aquaculture facilities, space heating and district heating, snow melting, agricultural drying, industrial applications, and ground-source heat pumps. The largest application is ground-source (geothermal) heat pumps which represent approximately 85% of the energy use, and the next largest is fish farming and swimming pool heating.

NSPE supports the recent passing of the production tax credit by the federal government (2.0 cents/kWh) and renewable portfolio standards requiring investments in renewable energy.

NSPE recognizes the energy saving from geothermal energy use saves the equivalent fuel oil of approximately 46 million barrels per year and reduces air pollution. Therefore, NSPE supports the continued development of geothermal sources as one of many renewables capable of ultimately weaning the United States from fuel oil sources.