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There are nearly 700 geothermal projects currently under development in 76 countries, according to a new report by the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA).

The "2014 Annual U.S. & Global Geothermal Power Production Report" finds that while international geothermal market growth was up, U.S. growth held steady. The GEA says 85 MW of the total global 530 MW of new geothermal capacity in 2013 was in the U.S. Stateside growth was flat, the organization adds, because of policy barriers, gridlock at the federal level, low natural gas prices and inadequate transmission infrastructure.

U.S. additions in Utah, Nevada, California and New Mexico kept the geothermal industry on the map domestically last year, the GEA notes. Furthermore, the report indicates that the geothermal industry is working on 977 MW of new capacity at sites that hold over 3,092 MW of power potential in eight western states.

The GEA reports that 25 pieces of legislation in 13 U.S. states were enacted in 2013 specifically to address geothermal power and heating systems, creating a foundation to foster growth in these states. The Salton Sea Resource Area, the trade association says, is a new initiative in California that could be a significant source of growth for the U.S. geothermal power industry if several policy barriers are overcome in the near term. The GEA notes that the Imperial Irrigation District has pledged to build up to 1,700 MW of geothermal power by the early 2030s at the site.

In addition, the GEA estimates about 50% of known resources in California, 60% in Nevada and 60% in Utah remain untapped.

"The geothermal resource base is still largely untapped," comments Ben Matek, the GEA's industry analyst. "With new initiatives in Nevada, California and Oregon moving to recognize the values of geothermal power, we are optimistic that state policies could spark another period of growth in geothermal power over the next decade."

Globally, the GEA reports that major geothermal development growth is expected over the next few years. East Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia are building power plants greater than 100 MW, and South American nations, such as Chile, Argentina, Colombia and Honduras, have significant potential but are in the early stages of identifying their resources.

In terms of established nameplate capacity, the GEA says the U.S. remains the world leader in geothermal production, with a total of 3,442 MW as of the end of 2013. The Philippines ranks second with 1,904 MW, and Indonesia ranks third with 1,333 MW.

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