This article will discuss geothermal energy in the United States of America and investigate the ambitions & strategy, key players, and projects of interest. It will shed light on the challenges that should be discussed and overcome. Geothermal energy is a non-carbon energy source that will enable the country to reduce carbon emissions and attain carbon neutrality by 2050.
Ambition & Strategy
On 8 February 2023, The Department of Energy announced $74 million in funding for seven pilot projects that will test the efficiency and scalability of the enhanced geothermal systems. These projects are to discover the growth potential of the energy source and power millions of homes with electricity across the country.
On 25 April 2023, the Department of Energy declared $13 million in funding to support the design and eventual deployment of geothermal heating and cooling solutions to empower urban/suburban, rural, and remote island communities across the country.
Under the urban/suburban communities category, the city of Ann Arbor in the State of Michigan, the city of Chicago in the State of Illinois, the city of Duluth in Minnesota, the city of Framingham in Massachusetts, New York City in the State of New York, and Wallingford in Connecticut picked by the government.
In the rural communities category, the city of Carbondale in the State of Colorado, the city of Middlebury in Vermont, the city of Seward in the State of Alaska, city of Shawnee in the State of Oklahoma selected by the government.
In the remote island communities category, the city of Nome, located in the State of Alaska, has been selected. In the first stage, geothermal systems across these cities will be run and assessed, and based on the analysis, the Department of Energy will select a subset of the projects that will advance to the second phase.
- Calpine, headquartered in Texas, operates several geothermal plants in San Francisco. It has the largest geothermal power plant with a capacity of 725 Megawatt.
- Ormat Technologies, headquartered in Texas, operates several geothermal plants in Nevada in the United States. The company's largest power plant in the United States boasts an impressive capacity of 138 Megawatts.
- Berkshire Hathaway operates several geothermal plants through its subsidiary Cal Energy operations in California. It has five geothermal plants in the Imperial Valley of California with a combined capacity of 349 Megawatt.
- Northern California Power Agency operates two geothermal plants, each having a capacity of 110 Megawatt. Both plants were commissioned in the 1980s, with the first plant commencing operations in 1983, followed by the second plant two years later.
- Terra-Gen Power, headquartered in New York, operates three geothermal plants whose combined capacity is 86.7 Megawatt.
- The primary and most significant challenge lies in location selection, as geothermal energy is utilised where hydrothermal resources are available. They are found mainly in the western United States, but most of the population lives in the East. Lack of access to transmission lines will hinder the usage of this technology in electricity generation.
- The second challenge is that developing geothermal energy is expensive compared to other sources. For example, the deployment cost for a geothermal plant is approximately $2500 per kilowatt, while a natural gas
plant incurs roughly $1000 per kilowatt.
- The third challenge revolves around the regulatory environment, and one way to address it is by streamlining permitting processes, which can significantly reduce the time required to obtain permits. This improvement is crucial as lengthy permit acquisition hampers investments in geothermal plants.
In this article, I explore America’s aspirations and approach towards harnessing geothermal energy, highlighting significant projects that play a pivotal role in this venture. Furthermore, the geothermal energy sector is substantially bolstered by the active participation of the top five key players, as they play a crucial role in advancing and supporting the growth of this sustainable energy source. Additionally, I have addressed the critical obstacles hindering the widespread deployment of this technology at a substantial scale. Finally, I think the steps taken are in the right direction, but only time will tell if the world's largest economy attain its net zero goals by 2050.