Currently, wind and solar are the two leading renewable energy sources; however, the Interior Department estimates that by 2025 the geothermal power generated from federal lands will produce enough electricity to power more than 10 million homes. This could place it on par with wind and solar energy. (source: http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2009/05/21/21greenwire-geothermal-the-undervalued-renewable-resource-12208.html)
Although geothermal energy is not technically a renewable energy source, it is generally categorized as such because rainfall replenishes the water and heat is continuously produced inside the earth. In addition, it's clean, inexpensive, and produces few greenhouse gases. Europe is leading the world in the advancement of such technology, particularly in Iceland, which is currently the forerunner in the development of geothermal utilization. (source: www.alternative-energy-news.info/technology/heating/) In the United States, Congress and the Obama Administration are making efforts to push the expansion of this resource by allocating $400 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for geothermal projects, such as the development of geothermal heat pumps (GHPs). (source: www.paystolivegreen.com/2009/05/geothermal-energy-gaining-momentum) Secretary Steven Chu announced in June nearly $50 million of the Recovery Act Funding to accelerate the development of GHPs. He stated,
"The heat from the earth represents a significant energy resource that can be tapped to reduce emissions contributing to climate change. Expanded use od GHPs in the United States will create new jobs for engineers, manufactures and technicians while at the same time broadening our nation's clean and renewable energy portfolio."
The Department of Energy has allocated grant funds for geothermal heat pump projects which focus on three areas:
1. Technology Demonstration Projects: Include mid or large scale projects with a minimum of 50 tons of heating and cooling capacity which can be installed in a range of climate zones and geological conditions.
2. Data Gathering and Analysis: Includes research projects and papers that will determine the feasibility of the project, including: system costs, performance and installation techniques.
3. National Certification Standard: The certification is designed to: 1. Increase consumer confidence in geothermal technology. 2. Reduce the potential for improperly installed systems. 3. Assure product quality and performance.
Like Europe, the United States is making progress towards the expansion of this renewable energy source. Given the great benefits geothermal energy has to offer, it's not hard to see why.