The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

Geothermal Searches for Avenues to Build Critical Steam

The teams of geothermal geologists, driven executives and keen marketers assembled in Reno this week for the Third Annual National Geothermal Summit, are easily as optimistic as their counterparts in the solar and wind renewable energy industries, but they perhaps are a tad more perplexed.

Why isn’t geothermal yet taking off like it should? Solar and wind installations are growing at mouth-watering double-digit rates. But geothermal requirements of a longer lead time and higher developmental costs mean that it simply is not cost competitive for a place in utilities’ state-mandated renewable portfolios — if lowest cost kilowatts are the only criteria the utilities consider.

Geothermal plants, after all, require several years of site research, test drilling, and reserve confirmation before a plant can be appropriately scaled, built and tied to the grid. Geothermal then is available 24/7, like fossil fuel plants, but has virtually zero environmental emissions. It can be used as baseload power or for grid firming. And it inherently possesses a sort of energy storage capacity that other types of renewables are still engineering. Thus the key to short-term U.S. geothermal expansion is the recognition of its full scope of value by both utilities and state regulators, until another Congress is elected, officials here say.

So as leading state regulators — with eyes on California and Nevada — begin to link the retirement of nuclear and coal baseload assets to the environmental costs of their replacement, “There could be tremendous growth of geothermal in the United States over the next few years,” reckons Karl Gawell, the executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), the Washington-based trade group. “We have the natural resources and the technology, but the policy and the pricing has not yet been optimally coordinated,” he laments.

President Obama’s speech on Tuesday, urging greater advances in greenhouse gas emission reduction, will also play into the strong suite of the geothermal industry, suggests Paul Thomsen, president of the GEA and the director of business development for Ormat Technologies, a leading geothermal developer. “Geothermal is poised for baseload fossil fuel replacement, so the President’s comments are good news for the industry for years to come,” he says. However, more is needed from the federal government, he adds. “It is surprising to see how much the national policies of other countries promoting geothermal energy are tied to climate change; for the last two years most countries have been more serious about this than the United States, so it’s good to see the President step up to the plate. The right signal will be sent to the market,” he says.

As more U.S. geothermal plants come online, the industry is expanding its footprint and its national profile. The low-hanging fruit is primarily located in the West — here in Nevada and California, along with other neighboring states — where high temperature water of 300 degrees or more is readily. Imperial Valley officials are pressing regulators for the addition of 1,000 MW of geothermal power from that region alone. But geothermal projects are now underway in about a third of all U.S. states, ranging from the Gulf to the Midwest to New England, as low-temperature technology -- down to 170 degrees -- is being more broadly adopted, notes Gawell.

Lead image: Empty road via Shutterstock    

Untitled Document


Energy Storage and Geothermal Markets Look To Team Up in the Hunt for Lithium

Meg Cichon In today's fast-paced tech environment, no one can make a splash quite like Elon Musk. So when he decided to enter the energy storage game in 2014, he did it with gusto. Musk is now in the process of building what he coined...

Regional News from the July/August 2015 Digital Edition of Renewable Energy World

Renewable Energy World Editors EcoFasten Solar announced that it launched a new mounting "Rock-It System" that it would be displaying during Intersolar. Product compliance was determined through testing per UL Subject 2703, which reviews integr...

SkyPower Inks $2.2 Billion Deal for Massive Solar Power Plant in Kenya

Eric Ombok, Bloomberg Kenya’s Energy Ministry and SkyPower Global Ltd. will sign a $2.2 billion agreement on Sunday that paves the way for the Canadian company to develop a 1-gigawatt solar project in East Africa’s biggest economy. The solar pro...

Some Hope for US Renewable Energy Tax Credits As Extension Bill Passes Committee

Vince Font In a lopsided 23-3 vote, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee voted yesterday to extend a number of renewable energy production tax credits through the end of 2016. The vote allows developers of wind, geothermal, biomass, land...

Charles W. Thurston is a journalist who specializes in renewable energy, from finance to technological processes. He has been active in the industry for over 25 years, living and working in locations ranging from Brazil to Papua New Guinea.


Volume 18, Issue 4


To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:


Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon



StartUp Green

AREI, American Renewable Energy Institute, in partnership with ...

GRC Annual Banquet

GRC Annual Banquet Monday, September 21, 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm National Auto...

GRC Fieldtrip - Geothermal Direct Use Tours of the Peppermill Resort

Free to all attendees (limited to 30 participants per tour) Located...


Clean Energy Patents Maintain High Levels in First Quarter, Solar L...

U.S. patents for Clean Energy technologies from the first quarter of 201...

Registration Opens for GRC Annual Meeting & GEA Geothermal Energy Expo

GRC Annual Meeting & GEA Expo:   Register Now for the 2015 GRC ...

New Approach to Crowdfunding Renewable Energy Assets

In our business, our goal is to help people improve their quality of lif...


Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now