Geothermal energy development picking up steam

(Oregon Public Broadcasting) — A new report from the Geothermal Energy Association shows that US producers expanded capacity by 5 percent over the last year.

Oregon is one of just eight states with operating geothermal power plants. But that number is expected to grow.

Geothermal accounts for just a tiny fraction of U.S. energy production. And most of that's in California. But development of the technology continues to build steam. According to the report, 175 projects are under development - 18 of those, right here in Oregon.

The report singles out one project in particular - The Newberry Geothermal Project in Deschutes County — as an example of an emerging technology called enhanced geothermal.

Tom Williams is with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

He says conventional geothermal systems only work when the conditions below ground are just right. And so far that's confined geothermal production to just a few Western states.

"Enhanced Geothermal Systems could be created anywhere in the United States. So the total potential becomes enough to power the total electric grid many times over," says Williams.

The Newberry project is still in the testing and research phase.

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