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Southern California Leading The World In Geothermal Energy


With Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent signature of landmark renewable energy legislation, California has set a goal of providing 33 percent of its energy from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal by the year 2020.

Vonderahe-1 geothermal power plant in the Imperial Valley near the Salton Sea.

This figures to drive growth in a field that many experts see as necessary for a sustainable future.


According to a GEA report released Friday, if California were its own country, it would be the world leader in geothermal power production with 2,500 megawatts of installed capacity. This is enough to power roughly 2.5 million homes.

“The state’s continued support for expanding renewable power production is extremely important to geothermal and all of the renewable industries,” said Karl Gawell, Executive Director of the Geothermal Energy Association.

“It means that there will be a growing market for these technologies,” he added. “It drives not just new power plants in California, but also drives the growth of the industries and the research and the technology development that supports that.”

Gawell said especially with today’s uncertain national political climate, California’s renewed commitment is welcomed more than ever.


His group is in San Diego this week for the Geothermal Energy Expo.

More than 160 companies from 25 countries are gathering to showcase new technologies and discuss the future of geothermal energy production.

Gawell said there is much more room to expand on the state's 2,500 megawatts of geothermal power.

“We could easily double and triple that,” said Gawell. “The ultimate potential could be even greater.”

A diversified mix of renewable sources of energy is ideal and could provide much of the electricity needs for California. But the GEA report says geothermal offers advantages over other renewables.

Unlike wind and solar, which rely on the presence of wind and sun to work, geothermal plants can generate power virtually all the time, regardless of the time of day or weather conditions.

The two main geothermal resources California is currently tapped in to are The Geysers in Sonoma and Lake Counties, and an area near the Salton Sea in the Imperial Valley.

Less than 1 percent of the Imperial Valley’s geothermal electricity currently reaches San Diego. But industry leaders are hoping that an upgraded transmission infrastructure, including projects such as the Sunrise Powerlink, will offer San Diegans access to more diverse and reliable sources of energy.

The Geothermal Energy Expo runs through Wednesday at the Town and Country Resort in Mission Valley. General admission is $50, but students with a valid student ID can attend for free. To find out more about the Expo, visit