What is geothermal power?
Geothermal power is thermal energy from the earth that is used to heat buildings and generate electricity. Geothermal energy is transported in very hot water and steam via wells or fissures in the earth’s crust to its point of use. The water or steam is then distributed through pipes or is used to drive turbines that produce electricity. Because the heat is constantly generated by the natural radioactive decay of rocks at the earth’s core, geothermal energy is a renewable and abundant source of energy.
What are the benefits of geothermal power?
- Competitive Price: Wholesale prices for geothermal electricity range from $0.03 to $0.07 per kilowatt hour. At this price, geothermal electricity is competitive with fossil fuel based electricity sources. Additionally, prices have dropped by 25% in the past 2 decades and continue to drop. The goal of the geothermal industry and the the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is to bring average geothermal electricity prices to down to $0.03 per kilowatt hour.
- Abundant and Consistent: Currently, installed geothermal electricity facilities produce enough electricity to power approximately 1.6 million U.S. households. U.S. DOE expects prices to continue to drop, bringing an additional 10,000 megawatts of geothermal capacity online within 10 years. This capacity will generate power to meet the needs of nearly 10 million households. Additionally, geothermal power is among the most consistent form of energy available today. Geothermal facilities typically produce power over 90% of the time, compared with 71% for coal fired power plants and fewer than 30% for natural gas fired power plants. And it is immune to international supply disruptions and market manipulation.
- Clean: Extracting the hot water and steam from the earth does not require any fossil fuels and produces little to no nitrous oxide or sulfur-bearing gases. Geothermal electricity replaces electricity generated from facilities powered by coal, natural gas and other non-renewable fuels, eliminating threats to public health such as carbon monoxide, particulate, and toxic chemical emissions from those facilities. Finally, a geothermal power plant takes up very little area and does not require any fuels to be mined or extracted elsewhere, so there are no mine tailings or oil spills to contain or clean up.
- Reduces Global Warming: Geothermal power produces very few emissions of CO2 or other greenhouse gases and can replace sources with high greenhouse gas emissions.
Where can we develop geothermal power?
Good geothermal electricity sites need to have hot geothermal flows at or close to the earth’s surface and should be close to transmission lines. In the U.S., most geothermal sites are concentrated in the western states. The first geothermal electricity facility in the U.S. opened in Sonoma Country, California, in 1960 and continues to operate today. Since then, facilities have opened in areas stretching from New Mexico to Washington and in Alaska and Hawaii. However, other geothermal technologies such as heat pumps and direct-use applications such as for heating and cooling buildings or melting snow can be installed almost anywhere.
Geothermal and the 25x’25 Alliance
25x’25 is a unique Alliance of interests, established initially in the agricultural and forestry sectors and now includes partners from the national security, business, labor, environmental, and religious communities. Geothermal technologies can make use of a clean, dependable resource that exists naturally amidst America’s working lands.