Baseline Geothermal Power Capacity in the USA and California

Date and Time
October 22, 2020 10:15 AM (PDT)–11:15 AM (PDT)

As states in the USA adopt more ambitious targets within their Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) then they need to create an energy mix that provides the power grid with resiliency, reliability and stability. An RPS is now adopted in 29 states, with California, for example, targeting 60% renewable by 2030 and 100% “clean” by 2045. The renewable-energy demand cannot be fulfilled by intermittent sources alone and baseload power will be required. Geothermal power provides flexible baseload with high capacity factors, higher than any other power resource except nuclear, and load balancing and ancillary services that help maintain the stability of the transmission grid. The demand for geothermal energy will only increase. In April 2019, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) gave the geothermal industry a target for supplying 2,900 MW of net power into the grid in 2030. What does this target mean in terms of todays power generation and how do we achieve that target? In order to assimilate a strategy, we must first understand the baseline power capacity onto which the industry must build. This paper uses publicly available data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) to collect and assess metrics that can be used to help form strategies for industry growth. An accompanying collaboration between NREL and GRC will build on these results with a report published at the end of 2020. The Nameplate Capacity for the USA is 3,806 MW and is shown to have grown only 2% since 2012. Two important performance ratios are defined, a Net Capacity Factor and a Supply Ratio, that link the power supplied to the grid with the capacity. Using these learnings, it is shown that the total installed capacity in California needs to be 5,750 MW in 2030 to achieve the CPUC target. An industry-led strategic task force is proposed with the goal of planning sufficient geothermal installation over the next 10 years to meet this demand.

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