The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) announced today that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has published its much-anticipated 2021 U.S. Geothermal Power Production and District Heating Market Report, which highlights areas where the geothermal power sector is primed for technological innovation. The report identifies significant opportunities for expanding power production through cutting-edge enhanced geothermal systems technology development; new power plant operational paradigms such as hybridization and thermal energy storage; and harnessing vast co-production potential from existing oil and gas infrastructure. 

“This new report signals that the geothermal industry is poised to make big leaps into enhanced geothermal systems and the heating and cooling sector,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman.  “These market strides are reflected in the growth of power purchase agreements in recent years, and they outline the potential for the widespread deployment of this important renewable resource.”

Funded and supported by GTO, this report is a comparative update of the Geothermal Energy Association’s 2015 market report that captures domestic capacity and usage for geothermal power production and district heating and cooling.  It further evaluates the impact of state and federal policy, presents current research on geothermal development, and describes future opportunities for the domestic geothermal market and industry. 

As identified in DOE’s GeoVision study, improved technologies could help increase domestic geothermal power generation nearly 26-fold by 2050—reaching 60 gigawatts of available, baseload energy capacity.  Increasing the use of geothermal energy for U.S. heating and cooling can significantly contribute to the Biden-Harris Administration’s decarbonization goals to cut U.S. emissions in half by 2030 and achieve a carbon pollution-free electric sector by 2035.

Highlights: NREL 2021 Geothermal Market Report

  • From the end of 2015 through the end of 2019, United States geothermal power capacity increased slightly from 3.627 GW to 3.673 GW. 
  • From the end of 2015 through the end of 2019, the United States brought seven new geothermal power plants online, adding 186 MW of nameplate capacity. In the same time, 11 plants were retired or classified as non-operational, subtracting 103 MW of nameplate capacity.
  • Since late 2019, nine new geothermal Power Purchase Agreements have been signed across four states.  Included in these agreements are plans for the first two geothermal power plants to be built in California in a decade. 
  • Geothermal companies operating in the United States have a combined 58 active developing projects and prospects across nine states.  Of these projects, five are in Phase 4, the phase immediately preceding project completion.  Three are in Nevada, and two in California. 
  • Currently there are 23 geothermal district heating (GDH) systems in the United States. The oldest installation dates from 1892 (Boise, Idaho), and the most recent installation was completed in 2017 (Alturas, California). 
  • U.S. GDH systems tend to be smaller in size (average of 4 MWth) than European GDH systems (continent-wide average of ~17 MWth), and orders of magnitude smaller than the average GDH system in China (~1,000 MWth).

EERE’s mission is to accelerate the research, development, demonstration, and deployment of technologies and solutions to equitably transition America to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050, and ensure the clean energy economy benefits all Americans, creating good paying jobs for the American people—especially workers and communities impacted by the energy transition and those historically underserved by the energy system and overburdened by pollution. GTO works to reduce costs and risks associated with geothermal development by supporting innovative technologies that address key exploration and operational challenges. 

NREL is the DOE’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development.  NREL is operated for the DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.