Planning and Zoning for Geothermal Energy

Zoning Practice — May 2010

By Erica Heller, AICP


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According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the United States has more geothermal power generation capacity than any other country. The steam heat from the hottest geothermal resources can be used to drive turbines for electricity production, while cooler resources can provide heat for commercial and industrial applications such as breweries, aquaculture farms, industrial drying, heating districts, and pools and recreation facilities (known collectively as "direct use").

The passage of renewable portfolio standards in several western states with known geothermal resources has spurred a recent surge in geothermal resource development. Advances in technology can be expected to improve our ability to use a wider range of geothermal resources in the future. For planners, this means that more communities need to understand geothermal development as a land use.

This issue of Zoning Practice covers the basics of geothermal power plants and direct uses and discusses how local governments can use land-use controls to promote compatible geothermal development.


Page Count
Date Published
May 1, 2010
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Author

Erica Heller, AICP
Erica Heller, AICP is a dedicated problem solver and experienced project manager, with 20 years of experience leading strategic and land use planning projects. Her passion is helping communities thrive while navigating local and global economic, environmental, and social impacts of climate change. As Senior Planning Manager at Brendle Group, Erica partners with clients to plan and implement specific steps toward a more resilient and sustainable future.