The US Department of Energy (DoE) is to award $4.8 million in grants to support the development of geothermal energy projects in six western states including Nevada, California, Texas, Utah, Idaho and North Dakota. The funding will be used to provide technical assistance to support the design and testing of geothermal technology.

The main initiative, GeoPowering the West, will focus on three main goals:

  • to supply at least 10 percent of the electricity needs of the western states by 2020 with 20,000MW of geothermal energy installed
  • to supply the electric and heating to approximately 7 million US homes through geothermal power by 2010
  • to double the number of states with geothermal electric power facilities to eight by 2006

“Geothermal power is available in all western states; in fact, it is already a significant supplier of electricity in California, with additional resources in Nevada, Utah and Hawaii,” said Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson.”We are confident that this initiative will help to increase the power produced by this existing resource and make it a major contributor to our clean energy mix.”

Environmentalists have been cautiously supportive of geothermal energy development. However, several projects have been opposed for a number of reasons. These include the required clearance of forest for the facilities, the building of major transmission lines across land and under water and the potential impacts of geothermal projects on underground hydrology.

“The US clearly needs to be developing and putting in place alternatives to fossil fuel energy sources,” Gawain Kripke, Director of Economic Campaigns at FoE USA told edie. Geothermal will be part of the solution. $4.8 million is not a lot of money, certainly not enough to provide a major increase in geothermal energy production.”

The latest initiative is intended to support the DoE plan to have 25,000MW of wind, solar, geothermal and biomass renewable power generating capacity on-line by 2010.

The Western Governors’ Association and Western Regional Air Partnership’s also intend to increase the contribution of non-hydro power renewable energy to regional electricity needs to 10% by 2005 and 20% by 2015.

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