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News Analysis

A Twenty-Fold Increase?

Fortnightly Magazine - May 1 2000

Energy Another impossible dream for DOE?

On Jan. 24, in an effort to tap "the vast geothermal resources" of the Western United States, Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson and U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (R.-Nev.) announced an initiative to expand electricity production from heat locked within the earth.

The new initiative, "GeoPowering the West," would have the DOE granting nearly $5 million to projects located throughout the U.S West. Over $4.8 million would be awarded for geothermal activities in Nevada, California, Texas, Utah, Idaho, and North Dakota, to focus on three major goals for geothermal energy:

  • Supplying at least 10 percent of electricity needs for the West by 2020 through 20,000 megawatts of installed geothermal energy capacity;
  • Supplying the electric power or heating needs of at least 7 million homes through geothermal power by 2010; and
  • Doubling the number of states with geothermal electric power facilities to eight by 2006.

By way of perspective, the top three states in geothermal electricity generation are California (2,500 MW), Nevada (200 MW), and Utah (40 MW). According to Annual Energy Outlook 2000, published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, geothermal electricity generation supplied only 14.29 billion kWh in 1998, or about four-tenths of 1 percent total U.S. electric output.

Comments on the DOE initiative were being taken through April.