Geothermal outlook positive for 2013

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Even though the country's renewable energy experienced continued economic challenges, some experienced growth. According to the Geothermal Energy Assocation, 2012 was a year of growth for geothermal and 2013 looks just as promising.

Seven new geothermal projects and additions came online in 2012 -- totaling 147.05 MW of gross capacity, representing the highest yearly increase in geothermal power capacity since the production tax credit was made available to geothermal in 2005. This also represents and a 5 percent increase over 2011. There are more projects that are expected to come online is 2013.

According to the GEA, 2012 was a year of firsts for the geothermal industry, including the first hybrid solar-geothermal project commissioned by Enel Green Power; the first co-production of geothermal power at a gold mine commissioned by ElectraTherm; the first utility-scale geothermal power plant in Oregon was brought online by U.S. Geothermal.

In terms of policy progress, 2012 was a fairly good year. Congress took action on a to help geothermal, including allowing projects to lock in the federal tax credits once they were under construction, instead of being online by a specific deadline. The Senate Finance Committee approved the change and it is actively under discussion in the lame duck session's "fiscal cliff" negotiations. If adopted, it could spur strong growth in geothermal for several years.

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