Continued from earlier post…
U.S. Geothermal Activity
In 2010, the U.S. installed only 15 MW of geothermal (in Nevada) and that plant will actually have a total 25 MW capacity when finished in 2011. However, more than 500 MW of projects are under development in the U.S. and will come online in 2011 and 2012 – not counting projects that may begin work in 2011.
According to a report “The Future of Geothermal Energy“ written by an MIT panel in the fourth quarter of 2010, total generating capacity of energy sources in the U.S. are currently as shown in the chart below (statistics sourced from EIA in 2004). As gas and coal deplete over time, the capacity of those sources will reduce.
While geothermal potential is found almost everywhere in the U.S., more potential is found in the western U.S. as seen in this map courtesy EIA.
What About U.S. Jobs?
What is the potential U.S. job picture with the geothermal industry? According to the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), there are several levels of jobs that come with each geothermal project:
a) Direct employment, such as construction of plants, maintenance and operation of plants, subcontractors such as drilling, exploration and manufacturing
b) Indirect employment, which relates to industries providing goods and services to the companies involved. Piping, equipment, security guards, geologiest, lawyers, equipment servicers, etc. fall into this category.
c) Induced employment. Increased economic activity occurs in a region where there are new jobs and development. This could be retail, housing and industries that benefit but are not directly involved with geothermal.
GEA found in its study that the job quality and pay is better than average in geothermal. In some rural areas that may be targeted for some geothermal plants, the geothermal industry wage would double the average wage of surrounding counties, while in other areas like California, the average geothermal wage would be about $2,000 more than the average wage. GEA points out that there is a higher unemployment rate in many rural areas, so geothermal plants could regenerate those mini-economies. Many geothermal jobs are more long-term as well; geothermal developers typically negotiate a 10 year to 30 year agreement with purchasers, which provides jobs long-term.
GEA found that one typical 50 MW geothermal plant can involve just fewer than 1,000 direct employed with a wide range of skills directly involved in the development. This case study did not collect information on the indirect or induced employment categories.
In the 4th quarter of 2010, GEA announced that the industry is set to add thousands of workers in 2011, based on projects in the pipeline. It estimated that at least 3,800 jobs would be created in Nevada and California. The leading states with geothermal projects are, in fact, Nevada, California, Utah, Idaho and Oregon, with activity in Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico, Hawaii and Wyoming.
The leading states for projects, not surprisingly, have substantial renewable energy standards. And DOE funding is nudging projects along with support as well. As of June 2010, awards to geothermal totaled $363.5 million.