The U.S. leads the world in geothermal energy generation, and there’s plenty of room to increase output. As millions of homeowners and businesses explore innovative ways to reduce carbon emissions and decouple from fossil fuels, it’s time for geothermal energy to come home—one way or another!
Learn more important facts about geothermal energy and how it will provide clean energy at grid-scale (and in your backyard).
Geothermal Energy at Every Scale
“Geothermal” is often used interchangeably to describe two different systems.
Geothermal energy generation relies on drilling deep into the earth to tap into steam and heat reservoirs. The heat generates steam and turns turbines to create power to feed the electric grid. These facilities cost millions to build and are only viable in some parts of the U.S. Once they’re online, they provide plenty of electricity, 24/7, even when the sun isn’t shining, and the wind isn’t blowing. In 2021, 93 separate U.S. geothermal power plants generated 3,673 MW of electricity—enough to power 2.4 million homes.
That’s only about 0.4% of the U.S. energy demand, but further investment could increase that amount by adding more plants and growing efficiency through technological innovation.
Related: What Is a Heat Pump & How Does It Work?
Geothermal FAQs – Where We Are and What Comes Next
1. Where Is Geothermal Energy Available?
Utility-scale geothermal energy production is more prevalent in western states, such as California, Wyoming, Utah, and Idaho. These states have substantial volcanic hydrothermal resources, including well-documented steam reservoirs and hot springs.
2. Where Is the Largest Geothermal Plant in the World?
California leads the United States in geothermal energy generation. The largest and most productive plant is the Geysers Geothermal Complex, located just north of San Francisco. Comprised of 18 separate facilities, Geysers generates an astounding 835 MW of clean energy annually—as much as a coal plant.
3. When Was the First Geothermal Power Plant Built?
The first commercial geothermal energy plant was built in 1904 in Landarello, Italy. The system relied on a single steam-powered turbine to power another relatively recent innovation—a light bulb. The electricity provided eventually powered 5 light bulbs—impressive for the technology available at the time!
4. What Is the Future of Geothermal Energy?
Geothermal has a lot of room to grow. U.S. installed electric capacity (all sources) is currently 3.7 gigawatts. With improved technology (such as diamond-head drill bits) and increased investment, clean geothermal could provide more than 10% of U.S. energy demand in the near future.
5. How Can I Tap into Geothermal Energy?
Most U.S. geothermal energy production is concentrated in western states, Alaska, and Hawaii. While grid-scale geothermal may not be currently possible in much of the rest of the country, geothermal heat pumps provide homeowners nationwide with a way to tap into the efficient, green energy underground.
Instead of steam and turbines, geothermal heat pumps use antifreeze-filled buried tubing to absorb the earth’s solar heat stored just below the surface. The fluid is then pumped through a heat exchanger (heat pump) to heat your home. It’s another energy-efficient way to tap into a nearly emission-free heating and cooling solution at home. (The ground-source heat pump cools your home by drawing heat and humidity out of your living space and releasing it underground.)
More Comfort, Less Energy with a Geothermal Heat Pump
Learn more about geothermal HVAC, or ground-source heat pumps, and see how much money and greenhouse emissions you can save over time. Your local One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning can help you find federal and state tax credits to lower heat pump installation costs, plus source and install the right system for your home. Book online or call (800) 893-3523 today to learn more.