Geothermal expanding beyond traditional markets

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Geothermal power projects are slow to develop, but the geothermal industry is expanding quickly in emerging markets using innovative technology to tap into untapped regions worldwide.

In fact, 454 geothermal power projects are now under active development worldwide, according to Pike Research, with surface exploration already underway. Further, 64 countries have geothermal projects schedule for development, compared to less than 30 countries just a few years ago, Pike concludes.

As of Q1 2013, an estimated 18.5 GW of geothermal capacity is in the pipeline.

"Although a substantial portion of this capacity will never reach fruition, it's clear that both project developers and investors have recognized the vast energy potential of geothermal resources, signaling a likely expansion in geothermal activity over the next decade," said Pike Senior Research Analyst Mackinnon Lawrence.

The majority of projects are conventional geothermal (hydrothermal) power, which uses naturally occurring pockets of steam or hot water close to the Earth's surface to generate electricity. These conditions are rare, so most of the projects are located in rift zones or volcanically active parts of the world, according to Pike.

Advances in enhanced geothermal system (EGS) technology, which uses deep drilling and injected water to create underground steam reservoirs, could open up new areas to geothermal power projects, Pike contends. Currently, 252 MW of EGS capacity is under development across North America, Asia Pacific, Western Europe, and Eastern Europe, according to the report.

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