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Sustainability and Impact Analysis

NREL's sustainability analysis looks at the environmental, life cycle, climate, and other impacts of geothermal energy technologies.

Seagulls on water with geothermal power plant in background.
Geothermal development in the Salton Sea in California is helping reduce the environmental impacts of the receding sea. Assessing environmental impacts is only one factor to ensuring a holistic approach to geothermal deployment. Photo from Janet Harvey

Sustainability analysis has three components: environmental effects, externalities, and economics and financing. Through our analysis, we review, analyze, and report the sustainability metrics for geothermal technologies, including subsurface technologies (e.g., hydrothermal, enhanced, and advanced geothermal systems) and surface technologies (e.g., flash and binary plants, direct heat applications, and geothermal heat pump systems).


  • Systems modeling and analysis
  • Hydrology and water use and consumptive use modeling and analysis
  • Geospatial analysis for gathering, managing, and analyzing data 
  • Environmental analysis
  • Techno-economic analysis

Energy-Water Nexus

Our energy-water nexus analysis helps policymakers, researchers, and investors understand the relationship between the water used for energy production—including electricity and sources of fuel such as oil and natural gas—and the energy required to extract, purify, deliver, heat, and cool that water and treat and dispose of wastewater.

Life Cycle Assessment Harmonization

Our life cycle assessment harmonization reduces uncertainty around estimates for environmental impacts and provides lenders, utility executives, and lawmakers with information about greenhouse gas emissions from various sources of energy.


Streamlining Energy Sprawl: Assessment of Geothermal Impacts on Public Lands, Transactions (2020)

GeoVision Analysis Supporting Task Force Report: Impacts – The Employment Opportunities, Water Impacts, Emission Reductions, and Air Quality Improvements of Achieving High Penetrations of Geothermal Power in the United States, NREL Technical Report (2019)

Environmental Concerns and Mitigation Associated with Geothermal Resource Confirmation Drilling Activities, Transactions (2018)

Geothermal Induced Seismicity National Environmental Policy Act Review, Transactions (2017)

Systematic Review of Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Geothermal Electricity, NREL Technical Report (2017)

View all NREL publications about geothermal research.


Garvin Heath

Senior Scientist