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

Is the US Geothermal Industry Back on Track?

The U.S. geothermal industry has limped its way through the past few years with little growth, leading many companies to abandon plans and shift their business elsewhere.

While industry activity moved overseas to more promising developing markets like East Africa and Turkey, those that have stayed in the U.S. have been fighting for regulation easements, federal and state incentives and resource assessments — and it looks like all that work is starting to take shape, according to a panel conference call during the Geothermal Energy Association’s (GEA) National Geothermal Summit held in Reno, Nevada.

“The geothermal industry is poised for really strong growth in the years ahead, the question is what happens at the state level,” said GEA executive director Karl Gawell. “We can’t count on Congress any time soon, so we’re relying on states like California and Nevada.”

California has been forwarding a geothermal bill (S.B. 1139) that calls for 500 MW of geothermal procurement by 2024, which is separate from the state renewable portfolio standard (RPS). The panelists were confident that this bill would pass, which would be great news for the Salton Sea Initiative. This plan calls for the development of 1,700 MW of geothermal in the area by 2032, with hopes that it will revitalize the community.

“While the transfer of water is causing Salton Sea to recede, the good thing is that there is plenty of geothermal under [the seabed],” said Carl Stills, energy manager of the Imperial Irrigation District. “We see [the Salton Sea Initiative] as the perfect nexus between water and energy. S.B. 1139 would help that initiative, and it is picking up momentum and nearly becoming policy."

In Nevada, officials are looking at revamping its RPS since it already surpassed its previous goals of 20 percent by 2020 and 25 percent by 2025 set in 2007, and geothermal players are hoping that it will open its doors to significant development. Nevada also allows companies to purchase renewable energy directly from a utility, which is why Apple moved a portion of its data center operations to the state. The data centers are now powered by geothermal energy and other renewables.

“We have strong foundation in geothermal and want to continue to see that grow. NV Energy signed the first geothermal contract in 1983, and that's why we are here,” said Paul Thomsen, director at the Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy. “We want to continue to be national leader in geothermal development.”

Although critical of congressional inaction, panelists acknowledged several important bills currently on the table, which heavily emphasize permitting. Currently, the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) has a lengthy regulatory process in place for geothermal projects. It can take an average of five to seven years to develop a geothermal project, compared to around 1.5 years for a wind or solar project, and three to five years for oil and gas projects.

“Geothermal consistently comes up at least levelized cost of energy, but how long does it take to permit a project? Compared to wind and solar, we can't build projects in a timely fashion and this is hindering forward growth,” said Gawell.

Panelists also pointed to increased grid instability as a positive factor for geothermal growth. As more and more intermittent renewables like wind and solar enter the grid and baseload fossil move off, utilities will be in need to stable, green baseload power, and geothermal fits the bill — it’s cheap, flexible, stable and emission-free, said Gawell.

“Its clear that were going through periods of change in electrical grid with the introduction of more intermittent renewables, geothermal perfectly positioned to take advantage and mitigate changes in electrical grid,” said Bob Sullivan, vice president of business development at Ormat. “Geothermal significantly positively impacts communities, and creates more jobs than any renewable technology out there.”

States, especially California, are starting to hunker down to assess the intermittency problem as more coal plants shut down, and geothermal keeps coming up in the conversation, according to Terry Page, director of regulatory affairs at Enel Green Power North America. This is why companies are starting to look at the U.S. as a possible growth space again.

“Geothermal has all the attributes of coal facility — it can be the backbone of our electrical grid,” said Sullivan. “Geothermal provides a very reliable baseload power to count on day in and day out. Geothermal is very much like a coal facility — but green.”

Untitled Document

RELATED ARTICLES

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...
As associate editor of RenewableEnergyWorld.com, I coordinate and edit feature stories, contributed articles, news stories, opinion pieces and blogs. I also research and write content for RenewableEnergyWorld.com and REW magazine. I manage REW.com...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

Volume 18, Issue 4
1507REW_C11

STAY CONNECTED

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

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Doing Business in South Africa – in partnership with GWEC, the Glob...

Wind Energy in South Africa has been expanding dramatically, growing fro...

Presenting at Infocast's Utility Scale Solar Summit 2015

Oct. 21, 2015 4:30-5:15pm Albie Fong, National Director, Solar Frontier ...

Utility Scale Solar Summit 2015

Oct. 21, 2015 4:30-5:15pm Albie Fong, National Director, Solar Frontier ...

COMPANY BLOGS

Behind Every Good Decision

When something about your business isn’t working, you set out to c...

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

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

An Overwhelming Paradox

I’m sure we’re all very familiar with the feeling of being o...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS