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Monthly electricity data for the U.S. shows year-on-year growth for geothermal

High voltage transmission lines, Primm Valley, Nevada (source: flickr/ Stephen Hill, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 29 Oct 2019

Geothermal power generation in the U.S. has grown by about 3% in August 2019 compared to the same month last year. Data further shows that there are discrepancies in the reporting on generation capacity for net summer and winter and the installed nameplate capacity.

In its Electric Power Monthly the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports some positive numbers for geothermal energy.

Year-on-year growth for the month of August 2019 compared to the same period last year, saw a 3% increase of geothermal energy generated electricity. The total generation in August 2019 was 1,408 GWh, a growth from 1,367 GWh in August 2018.

Growth for the first 8 months of 2019 (year-to-date August 2019) compared to the same period las year, saw a 3.2% increase, from 10,589 GWh to 10,926 GWh.

Generation in GWh by state:

  • California – 1,024 GWh in August 2019 – 7,865 GWh YTD August 2019
  • Nevada – 311 GWh in August 2019 – 2,496 GWh YTD August 2019
  • Utah – 37 GWh in August 2019 – 289 GWh YTD August 2019
  • Oregon – 13 GWh in August 2019 – 98 GWh YTD August 2019
  • Hawaii – 12 GWh in August 2019 – 90 GWh YTD August 2019
  • Idaho – Monthly data for August 2019 not available – 49 GWh YTD August 2019
  • New Mexico – 5 GWh in August 2019 – 39 GWh YTD August 2019

The report states an electric generating summer capacity in the U.S. of 2,455 MW, which is far off from the 3,600+ MW in installed geothermal power generation capacity generally reported for the U.S. by ThinkGeoEnergy and industry. Reports by REN21 and IRENA are quoting the average summer/ winter capacity numbers (MW), seemingly not taking “nameplate”/ installed capacity into consideration, significantly underreporting capacity. Industry states that the “in-service”-capacity reported by EIA does not correspond to the actual installed and available capacity if operating or not. EIA refers to generator capacity and differentiates to generator nameplate capacity (installed), but not reporting it in overall capacity.

If one takes nameplate capacity only, in 2018 the U.S. installed geothermal power generation capacity was 3,806 MW and the average for summer and winter net capacity was 2,658 MW, a difference of 1,148 MW.

There does not seem to be a clear answer unfortunately what is the correct capacity. ThinkGeoEnergy will continue report the installed capacity numbers of geothermal power generation facilities that are provided by industry in the U.S.

At the same time it shows that geothermal energy is behind nuclear power the most reliable source of electricity based on average capacity factors for utility scale generators in 2018. Here below key capacity factors for 2018:

  • Nuclear 92.5%
  • Geothermal 76%
  • Gas (Other) 65.4%
  • Biomass (Other) 61.8%
  • Wood 60.6%
  • Hydroelectric 41.9%
  • Wind 34.6%
  • Solar PV 25.1%
  • Solar Thermal 23.6%

For the full August 2019 report of EIA, click here!