Geothermal Energy

Geothermal Power Plant
Geothermal Power Plant

The United States leads the world in electricity generation with geothermal power. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that in 2012, U.S geothermal power plants produced about 17 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), or 0.4% of total U.S. electricity generation. Six states had geothermal power plants: California had 36 plants producing about 80% of the Nation's geothermal-produced electricity; Nevada had 21 plants producing about 16% of the Nation's geothermal-produced electricity; Utah had two plants; and Hawaii, Idaho, and Oregon each had one plant. Geothermal energy is also used directly for space and water heating applications.

The Geothermal Steam Act of 1970, as amended (84 Stat, 1566; 30 U.S.C. 1001-1025), provides the Secretary of the Interior with the authority to lease public lands (245 million acres) and other federal lands, including National Forest lands (193 million acres), for geothermal exploration and development in an environmentally sound manner. This authority has been delegated to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). BLM implements the Act through the 43 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 3200, published in May 2007. View more >>

A Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) relating to the authorization of geothermal leasing was completed in October 2008, and the Record of Decision was signed in December 2008. The Record of Decision amended 114 BLM resource management plans and allocated about 111 million acres of BLM-managed public lands as open for leasing. And an additional 79 million acres of U.S. Forest Service lands were also made available for leasing.

As of May 30, 2013, BLM managed 706 geothermal leases (1,310,639 acres) with 75 of those in producing status, with a total capacity of about 1,275 megawatts (MW). In 2012 these leases generated about 5.3 billion kWh of electrical power. This amounted to about 31 percent of U.S. geothermal energy capacity and supplied the electrical needs of about 344,250 homes (1MW supplies the power needs of about 270 homes annually).

In 2012 these leases generated about $12 million in Federal royalties plus another $3 million in rent; 50 percent of that was shared with the states and another 25 percent was shared with local counties.

Competitive lease sales of over 1 million acres of Federal lands since 2007 have netted over $76 million in bonus bids for geothermal lease parcels in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Nevada, and California. A competitive auction of public lands in Nevada held in August 2008 was the largest geothermal sale ever in terms of dollars bid, bringing in a record $28.2 million for a total of 105,211 acres.

In 2009 the President, as part of his Administration's New Energy for America Plan, set a goal for the Nation of producing 10 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025. His goal for 2012 was exceeded by 2 percent. The continued development and production of geothermal resources on Federal lands will bring the Nation closer to meeting his target for 2025.

Geothermal Competitive Lease Sale

For More Information

Additional information about the BLM's National Geothermal Energy Program can be found at this website: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/energy/geothermal.html.

For more information on energy development on BLM administered lands visit the National BLM's New Energy for America website: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/energy.html or BLM's home page website: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en.html.

For more information on energy revenues collected by the U.S. government visit the U.S. Department of Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenues' website at: http://statistics.onrr.gov/ReportTool.aspx.

Geothermal Energy on BLM-Administered lands in OR/WA

Leases are required to explore for or develop geothermal resources on public lands. Leasing requirements are described in the 43 CFR 3200 Geothermal Leasing Regulations.

As of June 5, 2013 there were 78 federal geothermal leases encompassing 102,484 acres in Oregon, a 2% acreage decrease since May 2012, and four leases encompassing 8,436 acres in Washington representing no change over the same period. There have also been 15 parcels nominated for leasing, 6 in Oregon (11,452 acres) and 9 in Washington (35,480 acres). Three of these are on BLM land; the remaining 12 are on U.S. Forest Service (USFS) land.

There is one enhanced geothermal system (EGS) pilot demonstration project and four potential exploration projects associated with these leases. AltaRock's EGS and Ormat's Twilight exploration project are at Newberry Crater in central Oregon. Ormat is proposing two exploration projects at Glass Buttes also in central Oregon. PGE is considering exploration at Mt. Hood, Oregon, and Gradient Resources is considering an exploration project at Mt. Baker in northwestern Washington. There is also industry interest in exploring for geothermal resources on BLM lands near Vale, OR.

Specific project and location information for OR/WA can be found at this website: http://www.blm.gov/or/energy.

Geothermal Forms

Forms that may be useful for leasing, administrative, and operational activities can be found at this website: http://www.blm.gov/noc/st/en/business/eForms/geothermal.html.