From Green Right Now Reports

As renewable energy goes, geothermal power often takes a backseat, publicity-wise, to the fast-growing wind and solar industries.

This map showing underground temperatures shows how Nevada ended up on the hot seat, in a good way (U.S. Geological Survey)

But geothermal power, which powers more than 2 million homes in the U.S., is poised for a phenomenal expansion, according to a report compiled for the Geothermal Energy Association and released today.

Just in Nevada, a state with rich geothermal potential, the industry could be worth up to $22.5 billion over the next 30 years, according to the GEA report, released in anticipation of a GEA Geothermal Energy and Utilities, Co-ops and Public Power Workshop July 22 in Las Vegas with utility and power companies.

Nevada has 86 planned or developing geothermal power plants with the potential to add up to 3,686.4 Megawatts of geothermal power to Nevada’s energy portfolio. That’s enough to power 2.6 million homes or the electricity needs of all the homes in the Las Vegas metro area.

The GEA also reports that the 14 geothermal power plants closest to construction in Nevada could create about 1,400 construction jobs in the state.

“This high volume of geothermal projects moving into final stages of development will likely generate a massive geothermal boom in Nevada,” said GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell. “Along with the millions of dollars in federal and private investment come thousands of new jobs.”

The industry group credits Congress with kick-starting the boom with funding from the Department of Energy via 2008 appropriations and also American Recovery Act money. And it notes that these geothermal projects come with a bonus for residents, who get money from the leasing of sites to the Bureau of Land Management.

The state of Nevada has already generated $44 million from geothermal leases, with more in the pipeline, creating a potential boom for many rural counties, the GEA reported.

Carbon savings are significant also. “If all of the developing projects in Nevada come online, the state’s total geothermal capacity will offset more than 23.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. This is equivalent to taking almost 4.5 million vehicles off the road each year,” the association reported.

The U.S. is the largest producer of geothermal power worldwide; though other countries produce more on a per capita basis. The Philippines, the world’s second largest geothermal producer, gets about one-quarter of its power needs from geothermal power. In Iceland, a country entirely powered by renewable energy, geothermal plays a significant role.