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Dec 142009
(Photo: Geothermal Energy Association)

(Photo: Geothermal Energy Association)

From Green Right Now Reports

The Geothermal Energy Association said today that state and federal policies in 2009 resulted in significant growth that places geothermal at the forefront of renewable energy.

In its year-end report, the association found that despite the recession, geothermal energy grew at a robust pace in 2009. The emerging industry added 750 full time jobs and 2,827 construction-related jobs. About $800 million was invested in the technology, six new geothermal plants went online in the United States and power capacity rose 6 percent during the year.

Currently, 144 new geothermal plants are under development in the United States, which could bring the nation 7,000 megawatts of new baseload geothermal power in the next few years. The report said the U.S. could see 10 gigawatts of geothermal power in the next few years — enough power to satisfy the needs of more than 10 million people.

The two largest geothermal producers, California and Nevada, each raised their renewable energy requirements. California set a target of 33 percent by 2020 and Nevada will increase to 25 percent by 2025. In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy this year expanded its loan program for innovative technologies to include geothermal technology, and Congress created a new DOE loan guarantee program for renewable projects using commercial technology.

The U.S. advanced geothermal technology through investment in Enhanced Geothermal Systems, which are expected to allow geothermal power to expand its effective range across the nation. This year there also were two projects that would utilize hot water produced by oil and gas wells to produce geothermal power.

As much as $338 million in federal Recovery Act funding has been allotted to the exploration and development of new geothermal fields and research into advanced geothermal technologies. These grants will support 123 projects in 39 states, with recipients including private industry, academic institutions, tribal entities, local governments and DOE’s National Laboratories.  The association said that when completed, these projects will represent a federal-private total of $691 million invested in new geothermal technology and applications.

The association said it expects to see the number of states with geothermal power to reach double digits in 2010, with new power projects coming on line in four to eight states.

On Jan. 14, the Geothermal Energy Association will host its Geothermal Energy Finance Forum in New York City to showcase the prospects of geothermal energy investment with top experts and major players in geothermal development and finance.