Introduction to Scenarios
Under existing conditions, geothermal technologies will continue to achieve only limited rates of market penetration and will fail to capture the myriad of benefits that geothermal can offer to the nation.
The results of the GeoVision analysis illustrate that if the industry continues along business-as-usual projections, then geothermal resources and technologies will remain a relatively small niche player in the energy sector.
The Improved Regulatory Timeline scenario in the GeoVision analysis models the impacts of reduced development timelines resulting from regulatory streamlining, but does not assume or create new policies that have not otherwise been introduced.
Results of the GeoVision analysis indicate that the geothermal industry could double in size relative to Business-as-Usual through regulatory reforms alone, using existing geothermal technologies.
With technology improvements in the Technology Improvement scenario, geothermal power production could support up to 8.5% of total national generation by 2050, as compared to the 0.4% share of total national generation contributed by the existing geothermal industry.
Technologies in the Technology Improvement scenario that support longer-term economic EGS resource capture can provide significant near-term value. Results are likely to include the economic and reliable conversion of subcommercial conventional wells to useful injection or production wells. This can benefit existing geothermal installations and future development of conventional hydrothermal resources by decreasing the costs and risks associated with drilling and developing conventional hydrothermal wells.
Deployment of All Technologies
NG-CT: Natural Gas Combustion Turbine
In the Business-as-Usual and Improved Regulatory Timeline scenarios, capital costs for deep and near-field EGS are too high to develop the resources cost effectively.
Only in the Technology Improvement scenario do technology improvements and cost reductions enable EGS to become commercially competitive and be deployed.
This map shows geothermal deployment projects by geothermal technology over time and GeoVision scenario. Deployment is shown for each balancing authority (BA) in ReEDS used to balance electricity supply, demand and grid stability requirements while projecting capacity deployments.
Geothermal does not deploy in all balancing authorities, especially in the BAU and IRT scenarios. Only BAs with geothermal deployments are included.
Plants in these scenarios are assumed to have a 30-year lifetime, therefore some BAs show a decrease after 2040.
Undiscovered Hydrothermal resources are assumed available for deployment in ReEDS starting in 2020.
Near-Field EGS resources are assumed available for deployment in ReEDS starting in 2024.
Deep EGS resources are assumed available for deployment in ReEDS starting in 2030.
Geothermal energy offers economic development opportunities in both rural communities and urban centers across the United States.
The results of the GeoVision analysis indicate that installing geothermal projects could create such economic opportunities, particularly in rural communities where geothermal resources are often located.
Economic development opportunities are expressed in terms of the expenditures—such as capital costs and operations and maintenance—to deploy geothermal electricity projects.
In the Business-as-Usual scenario, deep and near-field EGS are too expensive to be commercially competitve. The Improved Regulatory Timeline uses the same capital costs for geothermal technologies as the Business-as-Usual scenario.
Only in the Technology Improvement scenario do technology improvments and cost reductions enable EGS to become commercially competitve and be deployed.
For the GeoVision analysis, water-use impacts for the electric-power sector included two categories of water impacts:
1) water withdrawal, which is water removed or diverted from a water source for use
2) water consumption, which is water evaporated, transpired, and incorporated into products or crops or otherwise removed from the immediate water environment.
Water Use of Energy Technologies
NG-CT: Natural Gas Combustion Turbine
Achieving the TI scenario reduces cumulative emissions of SO2, NOx, and PM2.5 by 279,000, 417,000, and 54,000 metric tons, respectively, relative to the BAU scenario. These reductions represent about 1% of total emissions in each category and are concentrated in the time period between 2030 and 2050.
Geothermal electricity production in the TI scenario saves a cumulative total of 516 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMT CO2e) from 2015 to 2050, on a life cycle basis and relative to a BAU scenario. This represents 0.7% of total cumulative GHG emissions from the electric sector during this time period.
Air Emissions Impacts for all Geothermal Technologies Relative to Business-as-Usual Scenario