$467 million of funding from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) is being made available to expand and accelerate the development and deployment of geothermal and solar energy in the USA, and has been widely welcomed by renewable industry groups. US president Barack Obama says that it will help the USA become a leading exporter of clean energy technologies.

It includes $350 million of new investment in the geothermal sector and $117.6 million in the solar sector, and is part of plans to stimulate the US economy while reducing dependence on oil imports.

“We have an ambitious agenda to put millions of people to work by investing in clean energy technology like solar and geothermal energy,” energy secretary Steven Chu said. “These technologies represent two pieces of a broad energy portfolio that will help us aggressively fight climate change and renew our position as a global leader in clean energy jobs.”

The funding being made available for geothermal energy dwarfs previous government commitments to this sector, according to the Department of Energy (DOE). It will support projects in four key areas: geothermal demonstration projects; Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) research and development; innovative exploration techniques; and a national geothermal data system, resource assessment and classification system.

According to the DOE, funding for the solar sector is focussing on supporting the scaling up of manufacturing, production and distribution so that the technology can become cost-competitive with conventional sources of energy. Some $51.5 million will be made available for photovoltaic technology development, $40.5 million for solar energy deployment and $25.6 million for concentrating solar power research and development.

The solar sector has experienced double-digit growth in the US over the last few years.

The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) has applauded the funding announcement. “There are more geothermal power projects under development today than have been built in the history of the United States,” according to Karl Gawell, GEA’s Executive Director. “This stimulus funding will help make sure those projects are successfully completed and will help develop the technology needed to bring tens of thousands of additional megawatts on line.”

The GEA says that there are currently 126 new geothermal projects under development in the USA with a combined total capacity of 5500 MW.

“Geothermal energy is a widespread and complex resource base, and this announcement recognizes the need to move forward with technology development across several different applications and resources,” he added.