WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Clinton administration hopes to spur the growth of the fledgling geothermal energy industry with $4.8 million in research grants.
Despite its abundance, geothermal energy has so far failed to capture much of the electricity market.
Energy Secretary Bill Richardson announced the modest series of grants Monday for research in California, Nevada, Utah, Texas and North Dakota aimed at finding and producing the electricity more cheaply. The goal was to have geothermal energy account for 10 percent of the West’s electricity by 2020.
``It is a clean, reliable and renewable energy resource available in all western states,″ Richardson said. ``I think in the western United States this is a bonanza.″
Geothermal energy is generated from water or steam heated by the earth’s magma. The process pollutes less than gasoline or even natural gas typically used to generate electricity. But the costs of finding drill sites and building electrical plants have hindered exploration and development so far.
It is available beneath 17 western states, but is only developed in California, Nevada, Utah and Hawaii. About 2,500 megawatts of the country’s 2,800 megawatts of geothermal power is generated in California. A city of about 200,000 people consumes about 100 megawatts.