Update on Geothermal Direct-use Installations in the United States


Diana M. SNYDER, Koenraad F. BECKERS, Katherine R. YOUNG

Key Words:

direct-use, geothermal, thermal applications, installations, market, barriers


Stanford Geothermal Workshop




Direct Use



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409 KB

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Direct-use of geothermal energy currently has limited penetration in the U.S., with an estimated installed capacity of about 500 MWth, supplying on the order of 0.01% of the total annual U.S. heat demand (about 30 EJ). We see higher penetration levels in other countries such as Iceland (about 90%) and Hungary (2.5%). An updated database of geothermal direct-use systems in the U.S. has been compiled and analyzed, building upon the Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT) Geo-Heat Center direct-use database. Types of direct-use applications examined include hot springs resorts and pools, aquaculture farms, greenhouses, and district heating systems, among others; power generating facilities and ground-source heat pumps were excluded. Where possible, the current operation status, open and close dates, well data and other technical data were obtained for each entry. The database contains 545 installations, of which 407 are open, 108 are closed, and 30 have an unknown status. Spas are the most common type of installation, accounting for 50% of installations by number. Aquaculture installations (46 out of 407 open installations) account for the largest percentage (26%) of installed capacity in operation (129 MWth out of 501 MWth). Historical deployment curves show the installed capacity significantly increased in the 1970ís and 1980ís mainly due to development of geothermal district heating, aquaculture and greenhouse systems. Since the 2000ís geothermal direct-use development appears to have slowed, and the number of sites in operation decreased due to closures. Case studies reveal multiple barriers to geothermal direct-use implementation and operation, including 1) existence of an information gap among stakeholders, developers, and the general public, 2) competition from cheap natural gas, and 3) the family-owned, small-scale nature of businesses might result in discontinuation among generations.

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