There is enormous untapped potential for geothermal. It is a renewable and diverse energy solution for the United States—providing reliable and flexible electricity generation and delivering unique technology solutions for America's heating and cooling demands. Geothermal resources can be found nationwide, are "always on," and represent vast domestic energy potential. Only a fraction of this potential has been realized, however, because of technical and non-technical barriers that constrain industry growth. For example, through regulatory reforms alone, geothermal capacity could double. With technology improvements that focus on exploring, discovering, developing, and managing geothermal resources, geothermal electric power generation could increase nearly 26-fold from today.
Increasing Geothermal Electricity Generation 26-Fold by 2050
To evaluate the potential for geothermal energy to contribute to America’s energy future, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Office initiated the GeoVision analysis—a detailed research effort to explore opportunities for increased geothermal deployment and the pathways necessary to overcome technical and non-technical barriers to such deployment. The analysis evaluated opportunities for successful geothermal deployment based on three key objectives:
- Increased access to geothermal resources
- Reduced costs and improved economics for geothermal projects
- Improved education and outreach about geothermal energy.
The GeoVision analysis used rigorous quantitative models to assess geothermal deployment potential under scenarios that considered a range of technologies, market conditions, and barriers. The analysis determined that achieving all three key objectives can reduce risk and costs for geothermal developers, increase growth potential for geothermal energy, and provide the United States with secure, flexible energy that offers economic benefits to the geothermal industry and environmental benefits nationwide. The analysis projected that, through technology improvements, geothermal electricity generation capacity has the potential to increase to more than 60 gigawatts by 2050—providing 8.5% of all U.S. electricity generation.
Benefits of Geothermal Energy
To realize geothermal energy's full potential, stakeholders must reduce risk and costs by overcoming significant technical and non-technical barriers. The GeoVision analysis calculated the opportunities for increasing geothermal deployment by reducing these barriers. Such increased deployment can leverage the capabilities and unique features of geothermal energy, including:
- Secure, "always-on" renewable electricity generation with flexible and load-following capabilities that provide essential services to support the grid of the future
- Nationwide, affordable solutions for electricity generation and for heating and cooling at residential, commercial, and district levels
- Existing commercial technologies that are already proven in the market, augmented by innovative technologies with vast potential to increase electricity generation and heating and cooling solutions
- Economic benefits to the geothermal industry and environmental benefits for the nation
- Revenue potential for federal, state, and local stakeholders, as well as royalty potential for leaseholders.
The GeoVision analysis confirmed that improving the tools, technologies, and methodologies used to explore, discover, access, and manage geothermal resources would reduce costs and risks associated with geothermal developments and facilitate access to previously untapped sources of geothermal energy. In addition, optimizing permitting timelines alone could double geothermal capacity by 2050.