The Geothermal category is for articles about SAM's Geothermal Power model. It is used to display articles on the Geothermal Power page.

SAM's geothermal power model is based on the U.S. Department of Energy's Geothermal Electricity Technology Evaluation Model (GETEM), The model calculates the annual and lifetime electrical output of a utility-scale geothermal power plant, and the levelized cost of energy and other economic metrics for the plant.

SAM cannot model a ground source heat pump (also called geothermal heat pump or geoexchange) systems for building heating and cooling.

Documentation for the U.S. Department of Energy's Geothermal Electricity Technology Evaluation Model (GETEM) is available from

The geothermal power model calculates the output of a power plant that uses heat from below the surface of the ground to drive a steam electric power generation plant. SAM analyzes the plant's performance over its lifetime, assuming that changes in the resource and electrical output occur monthly over a period of years.

SAM can be used to answer the following kinds of questions:

  • What is the levelized cost of a geothermal power plant, given a known configuration and resource?
  • How does changing the design of the plant affect its output and levelized cost of energy?
  • What plant size is required to meet an electric capacity requirement?
  • Given a known number of wells, what would the plant's electric capacity be?

SAM models the following types of systems:

  • Hydrothermal resources, where the underground heat reservoir is sufficiently permeable and contains sufficient groundwater to make the resource useful without any enhancements.
  • Enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) that pump water or steam underground to collect heat stored in rock. These systems involve drilling or fracturing the rock to improve heat transfer. Over time (typically years), as heat is collected from the rock, its temperature decreases, and more drilling is required. SAM's recapitalization cost accounts for the cost of these improvements to reach new resources.
  • Both flash and binary conversion plants.

When you create a new case or file, SAM populates inputs with default values to help you get started with your analysis. So, if you create a case for a utility-scale geothermal project with a single owner, SAM populates the inputs on the Financing and System Costs pages with values that are reasonable for a typical geothermal project for power generation in the United States. The default values are just a starting point: As you develop and refine your analysis, you should change the inputs to values that are appropriate for your analysis scenario.

NREL Annual Technology Baseline (ATB)

Cross, J.; Freeman, J. (2009). 2008 Geothermal Techologies Market Report. 46 pp.; DOE/GO 102009 2864 (PDF 1.3 MB)

Geothermal Electricity Technology Evaluation Model, Version 2009-A15. (GETEM 2009-A15). U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Program. (GETEM Website)