Geothermal District Heating in the United States: 2021 Update

Amanda Kolker, Koenraad Beckers, Hannah Pauling, Francisco Flores, Jody Robins

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

2 Scopus Citations


As of 2021, there are 23 geothermal district heating (GDH) systems in the United States. Most are over 30 years old. This paper presents an overview of GDH development in the United States and the performance of GDH systems over time. Calculations of the estimated levelized cost of heat (LCOH) for existing U.S. GDH systems were made using NREL's GEOPHIRES tool. Estimated LCOH for existing U.S. GDH systems ranges from $15 to $105/MWhth. This paper explores other factors in GDH development such as resource and system size, capacity factor, and the role of policy. U.S. GDH utilization and deployment are compared to worldwide trends. Results show that the market for GDH in the United States has been weak over the past 40 years due to the combination of inexpensive fossil fuel alternatives (mostly natural gas), lack of incentives focused on heating/cooling, and other factors. Future opportunities for increased GDH deployment in the United States related to increased demand for low-carbon heating and cooling solutions (driven by decarbonization goals in the residential, commercial and industrial heating/cooling sectors, and particularly aggressive ones on college campuses) are outlined. Lastly, this paper identifies policy mechanisms that have been implemented in other countries to incentivize GDH (such as financial incentives targeting GDH, geothermal risk reduction mechanisms, carbon prices benefiting low-carbon heat production, and others).

Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages23
StatePublished - 2021
Event2021 Geothermal Rising Conference: Using the Earth to Save the Earth, GRC 2021 - San Diego, United States
Duration: 3 Oct 20216 Oct 2021


Conference2021 Geothermal Rising Conference: Using the Earth to Save the Earth, GRC 2021
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 Geothermal Rising.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5700-80363


  • Geothermal district heating
  • Geothermal energy
  • Geothermal energy policy
  • Geothermal risk mitigation
  • LCOH
  • Levelized cost of heating


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