GEA: Geothermal potential largely untapped in California

Geothermal plant at the Geysers, California/ U.S. (source: ThinkGeoEnergy, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 26 Feb 2014

As part of a report written for California's Air Resources Board, GEA has issued a report that highlights that the geothermal resources remain largely untapped in the state of California.

As part of its research, the U.S. Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) has issued a status report on the geothermal resources for the State of California coming to the conclusion that its potential remains largely untapped.

Currently the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is examining their new scoping plan for implementing the state’s ambitious climate law, AB 32.

Geothermal power is “a viable, cost effective, and plentiful renewable energy option to meet California’s climate goals,” GEA told CARB. Utilizing the Golden State’s geothermal resources can help achieve “carbon reductions with the least total cost and highest power system reliability,” GEA reports.

In brief, the status report shows that:

  • geothermal power generated 4.4% of total system power in California in 2012, but could have generated substantially more;
  • geothermal power produces some of the lowest life-cycle emissions when compared to almost every other energy technology and even some renewables;
  • depending on the resource characteristics and plant design, geothermal power plants can be engineered to provide firm and/or flexible power;
  • even with high upfront capital costs, geothermal power is a competitive renewable energy source;
  • about half of California’s identified geothermal resources are still untapped, and significant resources may remain undiscovered;
  • geothermal power is key to achieving an expanded renewable power portfolio at the lowest total cost;
  • new technology will reduce geothermal power risks and can expand the supply curve to make more resources commercially available;
  • the Salton Sea Known Geothermal Resource Area (SSKGRA) is considered by many to be the best opportunity for growth in California in the near term;
  • distributed generation geothermal power and heating projects have potential in a number of areas, but are not eligible for the type of support provided other distributed generation projects;
  • challenges to growth of utility scale plants include weak demand, inadequate transmission, permitting delays, and a lack of coordinated policies.

The full report, entitled REPORT ON THE STATE OF GEOTHERMAL ENERGY IN CALIFORNIA, is available at