TODAY’S STUDY: GEOTHERMAL IN THE U.S. AND THE WORLD
2014 Annual U.S. & Global Geothermal Power Production Report April 2014 (Geothermal Energy Association)
The international geothermal power market is booming, growing at a sustained rate of 4% to 5%. Almost 700 geothermal projects are under development in 76 countries. Many countries anticipating the threats caused by climate change realize the values of geothermal power as a baseload and sometimes flexible source of renewable energy. These counties are on every continent and range from small island nations to large developed economies like China or the United States.
In contrast to the global market, in 2013 the U.S. market was a quieter place to do business. Despite lackluster growth over the past year, this trend is not expected to continue. New initiatives in Nevada, California, and Oregon could promise substantial increases in geothermal power over the next decade. For example, the Salton Sea Resource Area could be a significant source of growth for the U.S. geothermal power industry if several policy barriers are overcome in the near term. The Imperial Irrigation District has pledged to build up to 1,700 MW of geothermal power by the early 2030s at the Salton Sea. If successful, this initiative could increase the nameplate capacity of the U.S. by 50% over the next 20 years. In addition Public Utility Commissions in Nevada and Oregon recently created potentially beneficial opportunities for geothermal power while state assemblies in Washington and New Mexico have clarified confusing legislation.
• About 530 MW of geothermal power came online globally to bring the global installed capacity to just over 12,000 MW. That is the most megawatts to become operational in one year since 1997.
• In total there are about 12,000 MW in the pipeline and about 30,000 MW of geothermal resources under development. Of those 12,000 MW about 16% or 1,900 MW amount of planned capacity additions are under construction in 14 countries. If all geothermal power plants under construction are completed on schedule the global geothermal industry could reach about 13,450 MW of nameplate capacity by 2017.
• About 10% of global projects have drilled injection or production wells and/or are actually in the process of constructing a power plant. Another 50% of projects are in the exploration stage meaning the first exploration wells were drilled, project funds have been acquired, and/or significant knowledge of the geothermal resource has been attained.
• The geothermal power industry reached about 3,442 MW at the end of 2013 (shown in Figure 5). New or refurbished power plants became operational in Utah, Nevada, California, and New Mexico. In total the U.S. industry added about 85 MW of new capacity additions in 2013.
• In 2013 there were about 1,000 MW of planned capacity additions under development and about 3,100 MW of geothermal resource under development.
• After a quiet year for geothermal power domestically, announcements in Nevada and California are likely to greatly increase the installed capacity of geothermal power in the United States over the next 20 years.
• Upcoming plans announced by Imperial Irrigation District at the Salton Sea Geothermal Resource Area could increase U.S. nameplate capacity by 50% over the next 20 years.
• Leading geothermal states, such as California, Nevada and Utah have significant amount of geothermal power potential with about 50%, 60%, and 60% of their estimated geothermal resource respectively, remain untapped…
Tracking Projects through the Development Timeline
In addition to defining their projects according to the above list of definitions, developers also indicate to GEA projects’ current status in the project development timeline using a four-phase system. This system captures how much, and what type of work has been performed on that particular geothermal resource up until the present time. These four phases of project development are:
Phase I: Resource Procurement and Identification
Phase II: Resource Exploration and Confirmation
Phase III: Permitting and Initial Development
Phase IV: Resource Production and Power Plant Construction
Each of the four phases of project development is comprised of three separate sections, each of which contains phase sub-criteria. The three separate sections of sub criteria are resource development, transmission development, and external development (acquiring access to land, permitting, signing PPA’s and EPC contracts, securing a portion of project financing, etc.). For a project to be considered as being in any particular phase of development a combination of sub-criteria, specific to each individual project phase, must be met.
Planned Capacity Addition (PCA) and Resource Capacity
Finally, at each phase of a project’s development a geothermal developer has the opportunity to report two project capacity estimates: a Resource Capacity estimate and a Planned Capacity Addition (PCA) estimate. At each project phase the geothermal resource capacity estimate may be thought of as the megawatt (MW) value of the total recoverable energy of the subsurface geothermal resource. It should not be confused with the PCA estimate, which is defined as the portion of a geothermal resource that “if the developer were to utilize the geothermal resource under its control to produce electricity via a geothermal power plant . . . would be the power plants estimated installed capacity.” In other words, the PCA estimate is usually the expected power plant’s estimated installed capacity. In the case of an expansion to a conventional hydrothermal geothermal plant, the PCA estimate would be the estimated capacity to be added to the plant’s current installed capacity. In each phase of development the resource and installed capacity estimates are given different titles that reflect the level of certainty of successful project completion. The different titles as they correspond to the separate phases are as follows:
Phase I: “Possible Resource Estimate” and “Possible PCA Estimate”
Phase II: “Possible Resource Estimate” and “Possible PCA Estimate”
Phase III: “Delineated Resource Estimate” and “Delineated PCA Estimate”
Phase IV: “Confirmed Resource Estimate” and “Confirmed PCA Estimate”
This section outlines how the Geothermal Reporting Terms and Definitions influence the reporting and presentation of project in development information in this report. For a detailed explanation of each phase of development and the outline of its sub-criteria please consult GEA’s Geothermal Reporting Terms and Definitions,
Geothermal Resource Types and Their Definitions for Global Projects
While projects in the GEA’s Annual U.S. Geothermal Power Production and Development Report are defined by several phases of development (Prospect and Phases 1-4) as defined by GEA’s 2010 New Geothermal Terms and Definitions, this report uses much broader terms to define where a project tracks in its development because of the vastly different development models to construct geothermal power plants outside the U.S. These terms include Prospect, Early Stage, Under Construction, On Hold, Canceled, and Operational. The breadth and diversity of geothermal project tracking throughout the world makes labeling projects under a specific Phase incredibly difficult. Therefore, for the purposes of this report, projects are defined by much broader categories in order to maintain the integrity of the information regarding a project’s forward progress.
Geothermal ‘Prospects’ are defined to be areas in which little exploration has taken place, and the country’s government has tendered the property to a private company, government agency or contractor to conduct further exploration. Although geophysical features or prior exploration might indicate the presence of a geothermal resource at the site, past exploration may not have determined the economic feasibility of a geothermal power plant at the property tendered.
‘Early Stage’ projects are defined to be projects where some aspects of a resource are identified and the initial stages of explorations and construction are underway. This could mean but is not limited to, the first exploration wells drilled, project funded, and/or significant knowledge of the geothermal resource attained.
Projects ‘Under Construction’ are projects where physical work to build the actual power plant has begun. For the purpose of this report, this does not include production drilling. However, many definitions of ‘Under Construction’ do include production drilling. ‘Under Construction’ is roughly equivalent to GEA’s Phase 4 of a project’s development.
‘Operational’ plants are contributing electricity to a customer who agreed to purchase the power prior to the plant’s construction. ‘Under Construction’ and ‘Operational’ are determined by information reported publically on company websites, press releases, government or academic reports, or media articles, interviews with company representatives, or other public sources of information.
Projects ‘On Hold’ are when forward progress on the projects has halted for any number of reasons not limited to land or religious disputes, loss of project funding, or an agreement that fell apart.
Projects ‘Canceled’ are projects where the government, project developer, or contractor decided to make no more forward progress on a geothermal project in the immediate future and withdrew from developing that geothermal prospect into a power plant.
For this report, GEA collected two numbers for each project in cases where both were available: a “Resource Capacity Estimate” and a “Planned Capacity Addition” (PCA) estimate. At each project phase the geothermal resource capacity estimate may be thought of as the megawatt value of the total recoverable energy of the subsurface geothermal resource. It should not be confused with the PCA estimate, which is the portion of a geothermal resource that would be the power plants’ resulting estimated installed capacity if the developer were to utilize the geothermal resource under its control to produce electricity. In other words, the PCA estimate is usually the power plant’s expected installed or nameplate capacity. In the case of an expansion to a conventional hydrothermal geothermal plant, the PCA estimate would be the estimated capacity to be added to the plant’s current installed capacity.