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Geothermal Energy Association
209 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Washington, DC 20003
United States

No. of Employees: 6
Key Personnel: Exec Dir: Karl Gawell
Phone: 202-454-5261
Fax: 202-454-5265

Geothermal Visual: Total US Nameplate Geothermal Capacity

This geothermal visual gives the total nameplate capacity of geothermal energy in megawatts as counted in the U.S. from 1971 through 2013, and the timeline is marked where enacted policies coincided with periods of sector growth. Coordination between government, regulatory policy, and the geothermal industry was a key factor that helped the total reach 3,440 MW capacity as of the end of 2013. GEA staff Ben Matek summarizes how these well-constructed programs and clearly written policies helped facilitate periods of rapid expansion:

  • The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) created a market for independent power producers that allowed for the rapid expansion of geothermal power.
  • California’s Geothermal Grant and Loan Program (GRDA) subsidized the costs of exploration often one of the riskiest phases of any geothermal power plant’s timeline in the late 70s and early 80s.
  • In the first decade of the 21st century, geothermal power qualified for the production and investment tax credit (PTC/ITC) which helped to make more projects economical.
  • The Department of Energy through the Geothermal Resource Exploration and Definition program was able to subsidize the cost of exploration on many sites focusing on small grants for early exploration.

The relationship between geothermal power and carefully-deliberated government policy continues as current public-private initiatives, such as the Salton Sea Restoration & Renewable Energy Initiative in Imperial Valley, California, could lead to another uptick in U.S. geothermal growth in the near future.


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