On a crisp fall day in late-September, three white vans crept up a winding Oregon dirt road lined with thick forestry. The pitted, unwelcoming path made for a rough ride — a likely indicator that many don’t often brave the ride to the top of the crater. Midway through the journey, the lead van stopped beside a hunter readying to traverse the dense, uninhabited wood for prey. Little did he know that the woods were uninhabited for a reason.
The UN has amplified its warning about carbon emissions as of late, stating that climate change is indeed real, and may very well be irreversible if countries do not act now. Since its latest declarations, all eyes are now focused on the world’s biggest carbon polluters, and China tops the list.
Back in the 1950’s, the Salton Sea in Imperial Valley, California was a tourist hotspot drawing in thousands of tourists, developers and businesses looking to take advantage of the paradise in the desert – and it was all an accident. Now, the sea and its surrounding communities are in dire straits, and their only savior may be an industry that is struggling in its own right: geothermal.
Commissioning a geothermal project is no easy task. Of all the renewable energy technologies, it has one of the longest project lead times – it can take an average of eight years from start to finish. Due to its heavy front-end expense, developers must be as certain as possible that they are spending time and money on a viable resource. So when drilling through hot rock, imagine the developer’s surprise — and utter disappointment — when equipment suddenly melts away after hitting magma.
Following another year of modest growth, the geothermal industry will continue to fight the good fight in 2014 by focusing on key issues that have hindered its massive global potential.
Geothermal energy is a clean, green, renewable source of power that faces challenges regarding costs and project timelines. One company has found a way to improve the margins by adopting innovative technology to help achieve higher efficiencies, reduce maintenance costs and improve the reliability of 30 condenser fans at its geothermal power plant in the Oregon desert.
The ring of fire is a geologic region that extends in a horseshoe shape from the bottom tip of South America, up along the Pacific coast through North America, and looping back through Asia and down to New Zealand. It's lined with more than 400 volcanoes, and as the Johnny Cash song goes, it "burns, burns, burns," which also means it's a geothermal dream zone.
The U.S. geothermal industry recently scored a big win when its first enhanced geothermal system (EGS) project went online in April. ORMAT was able to stimulate a previously unproductive well at its Desert Peak project with EGS technology — injecting fluid into a well to reopen cracks and create a resource reservoir — and found an additional 1.2 megawatts (MW) of capacity. Renewable energy experts applauded the project, dubbing it a "game-changer" and a "shining moment" for the industry.
Voluntary emission reductions (VERs) focus on sustainability rather than just carbon reduction and allow renewables projects to produce truly game-changing results. So says Tom Morton of ClimateCare, a developer and marketer of this type of offset internationally. 'It's important to intervene early in a country's development to introduce sustainable, low-carbon practice rather than wait until unsustainable practices develop,' he said, suggesting that, for example, micro-renewable energy technology funded by VERs could avoid the need for a centralised grid fuelled by large-scale coal.
The Global Geothermal Development Plan initiative, which could amount to US$500 million, will offer financing for geothermal feasibility assessments and test drilling, and will be the largest to date for promoting the use of geothermal energy in developing countries.