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U.S. added 147 MW of geothermal power in 2012

U.S. added 147 MW of geothermal power in 2012
The largest group of geothermal power plants in the world is found at the Geysers, a geothermal field in north of San Francisco, California

The United States continues to reign as the world leader in geothermal power with 147.05 megawatts of new capacity added last year, according to the Geothermal Energy Association.

In a preliminary report, the G.E.A. said the notable growth in the sector in 2012 is attributed to new developments in geothermal technology across the country.

“Geothermal power is expanding across the Western half of the country, and new scientific and technological advancements offering the opportunity to produce geothermal power from Hawaii and Alaska to Texas and the Gulf States, with the ultimate potential being generating electrical power in nearly every state,” stressed G.E.A. executive director Karl Gawell.

Year-end geothermal growth in 2012 was five percent higher than in 2011.

California emerged as the geothermal leader not just in the U.S. but globally with a cumulative capacity of more than 2,700 MW.

The growth of Californian’s geothermal power capacity is credited to the use of enhanced geothermal systems technology or E.G.S. This technology allows the extraction of heat from engineered reservoirs using fluid injection into deeper hotter rock.

A study by the Southern Methodist University in 2010, found that E.G.S. technology would help to raise U.S. geothermal potential to 3 million MW – a 40-fold increase compared to traditional geothermal technology potential.

The U.S. Department of Energy has already invested about $37.5 million into E.G.S. projects in California following the implementation of the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009.

Nevada was found to be the second largest geothermal producer in the U.S. with a total of more than 50 MW installed capacity.

Enel Green Power’s Stillwater Geothermal Power Plant, the nation’s first hybrid solar-geothermal project was built in Nevada last year.

According to the G.E.A., this project along with others, like the first co-production of geothermal power at Nevada’s Florida Canyon gold mine, represent some of the technologies that are contributing to the advancement of the U.S. geothermal industry.

G.E.A. will release its annual development report on February 26 during the State of the Geothermal Energy Industry Briefing in Washington.

Geothermal power currently accounts for about 3.5 percent of renewable energy generation in the U.S., according to figures from the Energy Information Agency.

This is produced by power plants and small power units spread into nine states including California, Nevada, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.

The U.S. started to lead the world in geothermal power generation in 2010, with 3,086 MW of installed capacity from its 77 power plants. On the average, it produces 15 billion kilowatt hours of geothermal power annually, equivalent to some 25 million barrels of oil or 6 million short tons of coal per year. – C. Dominguez



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