California: In California, the state with the largest amount of geothermal power on-line, electricity from geothermal resources accounted for 5 percent of the state's electricity generation in 2003 on a per-kilowatt-hour basis. In that year, California had an installed capacity of 2,478 MW of geothermal power plants. Geothermal is the largest non-hydro renewable energy source in the state, nearly equaling the combined total of all other renewable sources of electricity, excluding large-scale hydroelectric plants.
When added together, California's geothermal power plants produce about 40 percent of the world's geothermal-generated electricity. The power plants have a dependable installed capacity of about 1,900 megawatts -- producing 4.9 percent of California's total electricity in 1999 (12,786 million kilowatt/hours).
The most developed of the high-temperature resource areas of the state is The Geysers. Located north of San Francisco, The Geysers were first tapped as a geothermal resource to generate electricity in 1960. It is one of only two locations in the world where a high-temperature, dry steam is found that can be directly used to turn turbines and generate electricity (the other being Larderello, Italy).
The California Energy Commission's Geothermal Program was created by Assembly Bill 1905 (Bosco) and has been in operation since 1981. During the first decade, it promoted California geothermal energy development by extending financial and technical assistance to public entities to support direct uses, planning, and mitigation projects. In 1992, the program was expanded to include financial assistance to private entities for research, development and commercialization projects. The funding source is revenue paid to the United States government by geothermal developers from production on federal leases in California. Typically, there are funds available each fiscal year in the Program's Geothermal Resources Development Account for awards to qualifying applicants, and are provided as grants or loans. For more information contact the California Energy Commission, Geothermal Program, 1516 Ninth Street, MS-43, Sacramento, CA 95814, Phone: 916-653-0363, or visit their website.
Other major geothermal locations in the state include the Imperial Valley area east of San Diego and the Coso Hot Springs area near Bakersfield. It is estimated that the state has a potential of more than 4,000 megawatts of additional power from geothermal energy, using current technologies.
Nevada: Nevada is the second-largest producer of geothermal power in the United States, behind California. The Nevada Legislature recently passed a renewable portfolio standard of 15 percent of electric power from renewable sources by 2013. The Great Basin Center for Geothermal Energy has launched a comprehensive program to locate and map the vast geothermal resources in Nevada. The Center was initiated in 2001 with the assistance of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and has received funding through a U.S. Department of Energy grant in the amounts of $936,000 in 2002 and $963,364 in 2003. In addition to conducting applied research designed to explore for and assess geothermal systems in the Great Basin, the Center is also producing a Web-based, stakeholder geothermal information system for Nevada geothermal data.
Oregon: The Oregon Institute of Technology campus has been heated by the direct use of geothermal energy since 1964. Three geothermal wells supply all of the heating needs of the 11-building, 60,400-square-meter (650,000-square-foot) campus. In addition to heating, a portion of the campus is also cooled using the geothermal resource. The annual operating cost for the system is about $35,000, compared to $300,000 for a gas-boiler plant. Geothermal power plants are owned by a number of firms throughout the world, both utility and non-utility.
Searches for geothermal energy are also available in Global Energy Marketplace. To search for suppliers of geothermal power plant technology, try the search engine provided by Geothermal Resource Council.
Geothermal power plants are owned by a number of firms throughout the world, both utilities and non-utilities. Information on the owners of U.S. geothermal power plants can be found by searching the U.S. Department of Energy Renewable Electric Plant Information System (REPiS Database) online.