Last week when the US Geothermal Energy Association released it's biannual report which stated that geothermal power had grown by 20% so far this year , it cemented what TreeHugger said over a year ago: Geothermal power is the poor cousin of higher profile renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. It doesn't seem to be a question of geothermal's potential (which is great) but its amount of publicity (which isn't so great). Towards that end, here's a roundup of what's heating up in geothermal power around the world:
Framed in the context of the vast untapped potential of geothermal energy in Australia—the figure of 1% of the country's potential being enough power for 26,000 thousand years was thrown around—the Australian Geothermal Energy Association said that under current policy 2200 megawatts of power could be developed by 2020. Though a drop in the bucket of the total funding need to develop this amount of power, the Australian government announced that it is investing A$50-million (US$43.5 million) into developing this potential.
Alaska is planning to survey the state's volcanoes to determine the feasibility of tapping into them as a source of geothermal power. Some estimates place indicate that up to 25% of the state's overall energy needs could be met through this rather volatile source of geothermal power. The first volcano to have its exploration rights auctioned off, the 11,070 foot tall Mount Spurr, erupted as recently as 1992.
U.S. Public Sector and Private Sector Invest in Advanced Geothermal Research
About two months ago it was announced that the US Department of Energy is investing a total of $90 million to research advanced geothermal energy over the next couple of years. These funds will be distributed to academia and industry in the form of 26 grants.
More recently Google.org announced that it was investing a bit over $10 million to develop Enhanced Geothermal Systems, a technology which by MIT estimates has the potential to easily supply all of the nation's energy needs with as little of 2% of the continent's potential being tapped.
Though it's come under fire recently for proposing to expand biofuel production in an important coastal wetland, Kenya also plans to develop some more environmentally friendly power: President Mwai Kibaki announced that 1,700 megawatts of geothermal power over the next ten years.
A worker at Kenya's Ol Karia geothermal power plant was quoted as saying, "Because geothermal energy is our only indigenous source of energy, we're going for it. We can supply Kenya's entire needs with geothermal alone."
Being located on the so-called Ring of Fire, it's not surprising that both Indonesia and the Philippines are investigating how much of their geothermal power potential they can turning into usable power.
In Indonesia, the Bedugal project on Bali at 175 megawatts would supply half of the island's power needs, but concerns over the project damaging a sacred area or affecting the water in local lakes will need to be addressed. According to TreeHugger contributer and Earth Policy Institute president Lester Brown, Indonesia as a whole could "run its economy entirely on geothermal energy and has not come close to tapping the full potential."
In the Philippines, the goal is to increase its geothermal power capacity by nearly a third to about 3,100 megawatts in the next five years. The problem here is that many of the island nation's geothermal fields are still acidic due to active volcanic activity. This acidity can corrode pipes and is making it difficult to expand geothermal power beyond the 18% of total power generation which the resource currently supplies.
More on Geothermal Power
4000 Megawatts of US Geothermal Power in Development, Sector Has Grown by 20% This Year
A Primer to Iceland's Geothermal Power Stations
Geothermal Energy: Renewables' Poor Cousin
Jargon Watch: Geothermal vs Ground Source Heat Pump