Geothermal energy is derived from the heat in the interior of the earth. California's location on the Pacific "ring of fire", provides the potential for world-class geothermal energy resources. The Geysers production area, north of San Francisco, is the world's largest geothermal energy producer. Based on 2010 exploration and production technologies, a conservative estimate is that California has the potential for at least 4000 megawatts of additional utility-scale power from geothermal energy. In addition, California has widely distributed lower temperature resources potentially suitable for direct uses such as district heating for communities and ground source heat pumps for buildings.
The Energy Commission supports geothermal research, development and technology deployment via the Geothermal Resources Development Account (GRDA) , and with funding from PIER. Geothermal energy is a mature industry, but many challenges remain in the areas of reducing costs, expanding the resource base, improving efficiency and reducing the already low environmental impacts. Major needs include:
- Innovative tools and techniques for resource exploration and development,
- Improved investigative methods and models for more sophisticated and detailed reservoir management,
- Advanced techniques for remote sensing and detecting potential geothermal resources without surface expressions,
- Improved techniques and materials for well construction and restoration,
- Development and demonstration of enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) and
- Technologies and techniques to improve energy extraction at existing production areas.
With the technical assistance of the California Geothermal Energy Collaborative, the above and several other topics must be addressed in order to expand the use of geothermal energy in California.