Renewable Energy Continues to Gain

Renewable energy continues to gain as for the month of July all new U.S. electrical generating capacity put into service was from renewable sources according to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update“. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Project’s report fond that there was 379 MW of wind installed, 21 MW of solar and 5 MW of hydropower.

Office of Energy Projects July 2014 Energy Infrastructure UpdateFor the first seven months of 2014, renewable energy has accounted for more than half (53.8%) of the 4,758 MW of new U.S. electrical capacity that has come on line with solar (25.8%) and wind (25.1%) each accounting for more than a quarter of the total. In addition, biomass provided 1.8 percent, geothermal 0.7 percent, and hydropower 0.4 percent. As for the balance, natural gas accounted for 45.9 percent while a small fraction (0.3 percent) came from oil and “other” combined. There has been no new electrical generating capacity from either coal or nuclear thus far in 2014.

Renewable energy sources now account for 16.3 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.:

  • Water – 8.57%
  • Wind – 5.26%
  • Biomass – 1.37%
  • Solar – 0.75%
  • Geothermal steam – 0.33%

“This is not the first time in recent years that all new electrical generating capacity for a given month has come from renewable energy sources,” noted Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “And it is likely to become an ever more frequent occurrence in the months and years ahead.”

Geothermal: Technology Beneficial & Affordable

Last week nearly 300 geothermal energy leaders gathered in Reno, Nevada for the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) National Geothermal Summit. The industry discusses many key issues including moving geothermal forward in Nevada; utility perspective on renewable portfolio standards and geothermal; the future of the renewable portfolio standard (RPS); tax incentive perspectives; achieving the potential of the Salton Sea and Salton Sea Restoration Initiative; protecting the existing industry base; and regulatory matters including leasing, permitting, and sage grouse habitat considerations.

“Geothermal is a viable, affordable technology with large amounts of untapped resource, and we can provide clean energy to the West as well as jobs and economic growth,” said GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell. “Despite uncertainties in geothermal policies we’re still seeing a growing and innovating industry, but the next five years will be critical.”

Geothermal Energy Summit - photo credit from DreamstimeDuring the Summit, the industry expressed concern over policy uncertainties, which continue to create barriers to growth, while calling for stable policies that will foster the developing technology. Besides extending tax credits, many leaders agreed that not much can be expected at a federal level. Instead, the focus was on states as the drivers for growth, with sustained growth expected in Nevada and California, and new projects in development in Utah, Oregon and Washington, among others.

Ormat Technologies was the Summit co-host. Bob Sullivan, vice president of business development, Ormat Technologies, said the U.S. is in “a period of significant change in the electrical grid.” Sullivan called the technology a “flexibility procurement” and said it is “one of geothermal’s hidden attributes.” Geothermal’s flexible dispatchability addresses a growing intermittence issue, he said. In the past, Sullivan said, geothermal has been “pigeon-holed” under Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), “but it can be so much more than that,” he said. “It has all the attributes of a coal facility, the backbone of our electrical grid that we count on it day in and day out. Coal is being replaced with intermittents that you can’t count on, that need backup power. Geothermal provides inertia and voltage regulation, and also provides the green attributes.”

Sullivan continued, “On top of that it’s a real economic job engine. Our investment significantly positively impacts the local communities that we build in, so it has a big economic footprint, and it creates more jobs than any other renewable technology out there. As a baseload technology, geothermal can back up intermittent resources with no carbon footprint at all.”

Terry Page, director of regulatory affairs innovation with Enel Green Power, noted there is renewed interest in California for geothermal technology as the state recognizes some of the shortfalls of bringing on too much intermittent solar and wind power. “The Geothermal Energy Association is an international organization, and there’s a lot of activity particularly in Africa and other nations. But we’re beginning to see renewed interest in geothermal in California because of SB 1139, and Nevada because of SB 123. Both of those bills have generated a debate about what kind of renewables we need. For example, in California with the wind and solar resources, there’s a significant shortfall when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. The kind of projects Enel focuses on tend to mitigate that [through hybrid technologies],” Page noted.

In addition, Doug Hollett, program director for the U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Office noted the agency seeks to advance the technologies and drive down the cost of developing attractive geothermal resources. “We’re seeing greater market awareness and increased exploration activities. Our feeling is that trend will continue. We’ve got a lot of geothermal out there that we sometimes forget to mention, Alaska, Hawaii. In some places it ends up offsetting diesel, which is just a wonderful story.”

GEA Announces 2014 GEA Honors Winners

In advance of the 2014 GEA Summit to take place in Reno, Nevada on August 5-6, the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) has announced the winners of their 2014 GEA Honors. The awardGEA logos, which will be presented during the Summit, recognize companies, projects and individuals who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in the geothermal industry. The winners were selected in categories including Technological Advancement, Economic Development and Environmental Stewardship. Now in its fourth year, GEA also provides special recognition of companies and individuals who have made notable advances and achievements for geothermal energy.

The following companies and individuals will be awarded 2014 GEA Honors in the following categories:

  • Environmental Stewardship – Awarded for fostering outstanding environmental stewardship through the use of geothermal systems: Salton Sea Restoration & Renewable Energy Initiative
  • Technological Advancement – Awarded for developing a new, innovative or pioneering technology to further geothermal development: Baker Hughes, POWER Engineers, and Ormat Technologies, Inc.
  • Economic Development – Awarded for making a substantial contribution to the development of local, regional or national markets through the development of geothermal systems: Dewhurst Group/Grupo Dewhurst.
  • Special Recognition companies – Mono County Board of Supervisors, AltaRock Energy Inc. and The National Geothermal Data System (NGDS)
  • Special Recognition people – Bill Price, Enel Green Power North America; Dita Bronicki- Ormat;  James C. Hanks, President, Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors along with: Greg Mines who is recognized for his work in Power plant, GETEM and other analysis work he has performed in the last 30 plus years; and Hillary Hanson and Rachel Wood who are interns at the Idaho National Laboratory who have been working with public information provided to federal and state agencies by geothermal operators to improve the DOE Geothermal Technologies Office’s understanding the evolving performance and operation of geothermal power plants.

Click here to learn more about the award winners.

Renewable Energy Provides 56% of Electrical Generation

According to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects, solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower provided 55.7% (1,965 MW of the 3,529 MW total installed) of new installed U.S. electrical generating capacity during the first half of 2014.

  • Solar provided 32.1% (1,131 MW)
  • Wind provided 19.8% (699 MW)
  • Biomass provided 2.5% (87 MW)
  • Geothermal provided 0.9% (32 MW)
  • Hydropower provided 0.5% (16 MW)
  • Most of the balance (1,555 MW – 44.1%) of the new generating capacity was provided by natural gas while no new coal or nuclear power capacity was reported

solar installationAccording to the SUN DAY Campaign, the dominant role being played by renewables in providing new electrical generating capacity in 2014 is continuing a trend now several years in the making. Over the past 30 months (i.e., since January 1, 2012), renewable energy sources have accounted for almost half (48.0%) or 22,774 MW of the 47,446 MW of new electrical generating capacity.

If calendar year 2011 is also factored in, then renewables have accounted for approximately 45% of all new electrical generating capacity over the past 3 1/2 years. In fact, since January 1, 2011 renewables have provided more new electrical generating capacity than natural gas (31,345 MW vs. 29,176 MW) and nearly four times that from coal (8,235 MW)

Renewable energy sources now account for 16.28% of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity: water – 8.57%, wind – 5.26%, biomass – 1.37%, solar – 0.75%, and geothermal steam – 0.33%. This is up from 14.76% two years earlier (i.e., June 30, 2012) and is now more than nuclear (9.24%) and oil (4.03%) combined.

“A new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is projecting that renewable energy sources will account for only 24% of new capacity additions between now and 2040,” Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign, noted. “However, the latest FERC data coupled with that published during the past several years indicate that EIA’s numbers are once again low-balling the likely share – and probably dominant share – of renewables in the nation’s future energy mix.”

DOE Allocates $31M to Establish FORGE

The Department of Energy (DOE) has allocated up to $31 million to establish a new program: Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE). The field lab will be dedicated to cutting-edge research on enhanced geothermal systems (EGS).

EGS are engineered reservoirs, created beneath the surface of the Earth, where there is hot rock but limited pathways through which fluid can flow. During EGS development, underground fluid pathways are safely created DOE FORGE programand their size and connectivity increased. These enhanced pathways allow fluid to circulate throughout the hot rock and carry heat to the surface to generate electricity. In the long term, DOE believes EGS may enable domestic access to a geographically diverse baseload, and carbon-free energy resource on the order of 100 gigawatts, or enough to power about 100 million homes.

“The FORGE initiative is a first-of-its-kind effort to accelerate development of this innovative geothermal technology that could help power our low carbon future,” said Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Dave Danielson. “This field observatory will facilitate the development of rigorous and reproducible approaches that could drive down the cost of geothermal energy and further diversify our nation’s energy portfolio.”

According to DOE, the research and development (R&D) at FORGE will focus on techniques to effectively stimulate large fracture networks in various rock types, technologies for imaging and monitoring the evolution of fluid pathways, and long-term reservoir sustainability and management techniques. In addition, a robust open data policy will make FORGE a leading resource for the broader scientific and engineering community studying the Earth’s subsurface. These significant advances will reduce industry risk and ultimately facilitate deployment of EGS nationwide.

The FORGE initiative is comprised of three phases. The first two phases focus on selecting both a site and an operations team, as well as preparing and fully characterizing the site. In Phase 1, $2 million will be available over one year for selected teams to perform analysis on the suitability of their proposed site and to develop plans for Phase 2. Subject to the availability of appropriations, up to $29 million in funding is planned for Phase 2, during which teams will work to fully instrument, characterize, and permit candidate sites.

Subject to the availability of appropriations, Phase 3 will fund full implementation of FORGE at a single site, managed by a single operations team. This phase will be guided by a collaborative research strategy and executed via annual R&D solicitations designed to improve, optimize, and drive down the costs of deploying EGS. In this phase, partners from industry, academia, and the national laboratories will have ongoing opportunities to conduct new and innovative R&D at the site in critical research areas such as reservoir characterization, reservoir creation, and reservoir sustainability.

Geothermal Bill Makes Progress in California

The California Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee approved the proposed geothermal legislation S.B. 1139 with a 6-2 vote. Earlier in the week, the Utilities and Commerce Committee also passed the bill, by 8-5. The Senate approved it in May. This bill, should enacted, will strengthen the geothermal industry’s position in the state as it moves to lower carbon energy solutions.

California_Geothermal-3“The Geothermal Energy Association supports existing geothermal power facilities in California and efforts to expand geothermal power production in the state,” said Karl Gawell, GEA’s executive director said upon passage of the bill from the two committees.

The next step is for the bill to be heard in August by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. If the bill is enacted, retail sellers would need to increased their geothermal-powered electricity use by a combined total of 500 MW by 2024.

GEA has noted that California has great potential for geothermal power development throughout the state. In other California geothermal news, a concurrent initiative by the Imperial Irrigation District in Imperial County would use geothermal energy in a plan to restore the Salton Sea habitat and shorelines.

New Geothermal Paper Examines Costs, Benefits

A new paper released by the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) examines the public economic costs and benefits of geothermal energy. “The Economic Costs and Benefits of Geothermal Power,” is another viewpoint of the value and affordability of geothermal energy based on an analysis from several government and private sector reports published in 2014.

geothermal-energyGeothermal power “compares favorably with other technologies currently available according to three difference analyses published in 2014,” the authors state. The reports were issued by the U.S. Energy Information Agency, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and the California Public Utilities Commission.

The paper also looks at the direct economic benefits of geothermal power. Unlike other renewables, GEA said geothermal power produced on federal lands is based upon leases that are sold competitively, generating bonus bids, and subsequent production is subject to royalty payments. According to the Department of the Interior, geothermal generated $15 million in fiscal year 2014. Also, state lands involved in geothermal power production generate additional revenues, often dedicated to support education. California, for example, reports $4 million received from geothermal production involving state lands.

The paper also discusses the significant number of jobs created when geothermal power is developed. GEA estimates that for every 100 MW of geothermal power, the industry provides 170 permanent, full-time jobs. In addition, geothermal power creates 310 annual construction and 330 annual manufacturing/equipment jobs for every 100 MW of new installed capacity.

California Celebrates Geothermal Awareness Day

Today is Geothermal Awareness Day in California and the geothermal industry is participating with several activities throughout the state including Sacramento, the state’s capitol. On this day, the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) is making a call for people to submit entries for the GEA Honors awards program, which recognizes the contributions made by companies and individuals in the past year that have advanced technology, business and environmental sustainabilityGEA logo through the field of geothermal energy.

“There is a growing need to educate Californians about the benefits of geothermal energy, and Geothermal Awareness Day is a great opportunity to make progress on understanding geothermal power,” said Karl Gawell, GEA’s executive director. “May 5 is Geothermal Awareness Day in Sacramento, and GEA is making key information available at its website free to the public to encourage Californians to learn more about the benefits of geothermal to the state.”

Free reports of interest that are available to the public include:

  • Report on the State of Geothermal In California, April 2012
  • The Values of Geothermal Energy: A Discussion of the Benefits Geothermal Power Provides to the Future US Power System, October 2013 (published jointly with the Geothermal Resources Council);
  • Geothermal Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions, November 2012
  • Geothermal Basics

“It’s amazing to see the success being achieved in the geothermal sector, from cutting edge technology that are bring projects online to valuable research that are bringing us closer to a sustainable future. GEA Honors offers a moment to pause and celebrate the positive developments in the geothermal energy industry,” said GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell.

The deadline for GEA Honors submissions is July 7. Winners of GEA Honors will be announced on August 5 at the National Geothermal Summit at the Grand Sierra Resort & Casino in Reno, Neveda. Click here to view all the categories and to submit a nomination.

2012 Ag Census Includes Renewable Energy

2012-censusThe 2012 Census of Agriculture shows a doubling of on-farm renewable energy production since 2007.

According to the census data released by USDA today, there were 57,299 farms that produced on-farm renewable energy in 2012, more than double the 23,451 in 2007. By far the biggest was solar panels, used on over 36,000 farms. Geoexchange systems and wind turbines each were used on more than 9,000 farms.

For renewable fuels, biodiesel was produced on 4,099 farms and ethanol on 2,397. Small hydro systems were used on about 1300 farms and methane digesters on 537.

The census reveals there are now 3.28 million farmers operating 2.1 million farms on 914.5 million acres of farmland across the United States. Those numbers are all lower than 2007 when the census reported 3.18 million farmers, 2.2 million farms and 922 million acres. The top 5 states for agricultural sales were California ($42.6 billion); Iowa ($30.8 billion); Texas ($25.4 billion); Nebraska ($23.1 billion); and Minnesota ($21.3 billion). Corn and soybean acres topped 50 percent of all harvested acres for the first time.

Census data is available from USDA online and a recording of the webcast release of the census data is here: USDA Releases 2012 Census Data

Oregon Institute of Technology Goes All Renewable

According to Oregon Institute of Technology, they are the first campus in the world to produce all of its energy needs using renewable energy. The campus is now 100 percent powered by a combination of solar and geothermal sources. The achievement was noted in a ceremony that included U.S. Senators Wyden and Merkley, Oregon Senator Whitsett, and First Lady Hayes.

The campus has been entirely heated by geothermal water for several decades, and now the geothermal resource is being utilized in a 1.75-megawatt combined heat and power plant to provide electricity. Additionally, a 2.0-megawatt solar array was installed on 9 acres of campus land and commissioned at the end of last year.

“The geothermal and solar projects all serve important and dual purposes for Oregon Tech,” said Christopher Maples, president of Oregon Tech. “They support the education of our students in the growing green jobs industry, and they put us closer to our goal of becoming a climate neutral campus by 2050.”

Oregon Insitute of Technology Geothermal-Solar EnergyOregon Tech built the geothermal power plants in two stages, beginning with a 0.28- megawatt module that was the first operating geothermal power plant in Oregon. The success of that system, followed by the ability to garner additional financial support, led to the installation of a 1.75- megawatt project. In combination, they generate an estimated 8,315,000 kilowatt hours annually, reducing energy costs by nearly one-half million dollars per year.

In addition to the combined heat and power system, Oregon Tech installed 7,800 ground-mounted solar electric panels next to the John F. Moehl football stadium, with a total capacity of just under 2 megawatt. The solar project is an “all-Oregon” project and is one of the largest solar photovoltaic system in the state of Oregon and the largest multiple campus, university system-based contract for solar energy in the nation.

The university received a Blue Sky grant from Pacific Power to support the system installation, which has had a positive economic impact on Klamath Falls and the surrounding areas. SolarCity, the contractor that installed the system, used all local contractors and labor to complete the project.

The combined output from the three renewable energy projects on the campus will exceed the campus electricity use by an estimated 700,000 kilowatt hours per year. That energy will be donated to Pacific Power’s low-income subsidy program, making Oregon Tech the largest non-utility net metering contributor in the state.

Trends & Growth in Global Geothermal Market

A new report reveals the international power market is booming with a sustained growth rate of 4 percent to 5 percent. The “2014 Annual U.S. & Global Geothermal Power Production Report,” finds, released by the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) finds that nearly 700 projects are currently under development in 76 countries. Among the key factors for growth, finds the report, are threats posed by climate change and the need for renewable energy sources that can satisfy grid needs.

The report also found that international geothermal market growth was up, while stateside growth held steady; 85 MW of the total global 530 MW of new geothermal capacity in 2013 was in the U.S. However, U.S. growth was flat because of policy barriers, gridlock at the federal level, low natural gas prices and inadequate transmission infrastructure.

Global Geothermal Growth 2014 - GEA“While there was a modest downturn in capacity additions, the Industry Update also underscores the tremendous untapped potential for geothermal energy,” said GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell. According to the report, the geothermal industry was working on 977MW of new capacity (Planned Capacity Additions or PCA’s) at sites that hold over 3,092MW of power potential in eight western states.

U.S. additions in Utah, Nevada, California, and New Mexico kept the industry on the map domestically in 2013, and future growth looks promising. “The geothermal resource base is still largely untapped,” noted Ben Matek, GEA’s Industry Analyst. “With new initiatives in Nevada, California and Oregon moving to recognize the values of geothermal power, we are optimistic that state policies could spark another period of growth in geothermal power over the next decade.”

In 2013, 25 pieces of legislation in 13 U.S. states were enacted specifically to address geothermal power and heating systems, creating a foundation for the environment needed to foster geothermal growth in these states. Past evidence shows successful policy initiatives have translated into growth; in Nevada, for example, which leads the way as one of the most business-friendly environments, the number of developing projects (45) more than doubles that of California (25).

On a global scale, the report found that there could be a time in the near future when the U.S. is no longer the world geothermal energy producer.

Renewable Electricity Could Reach 16% In Five Years

According to an early release review of the Annual Energy Outlook 2014 (the final report is slated for release on April 30th) published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), renewable energy could hit 16 percent of the net U.S. electrical generation by the year 2040. This includes biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind. But the SUN DAY Campaign challenges these predictions by asserting this could happen in the next five years.

When reviewing EIA’s own published data for the 11-year period January 1, 2003 through December 31, 2013 revealed that the percentage of the nation’s net electrical generation Biomass pelletsrepresented by renewable energy has expanded from less than 9 percent in 2004 to nearly 13 percent in 2013. Given the relatively consistent growth trends of the past decade or longer for most renewable energy sources and their rapidly declining costs, it seems improbable that it will require another 27 years to grow from 13 percent to 16 percent according to SUN DAY Campaign. Thus, EIA’s forecast is not just unduly conservative; almost certainly, it is simply wrong.

If the trends reflected in EIA data from the past decade continue, cite the SUN DAY campaign, renewable energy sources could increase to as much as 13.5 percent of net U.S. electrical generation in 2014, to 14.4 percent in 2015, to 15.3 percent in 2016, and reach or exceed 16.0 percent no later than 2018 — i.e., within five years and not the 27 years forecast by EIA. At worst, they would reach 16 percent by 2020.

“Inasmuch as policy makers in both the public and private sectors – as well as the media and others – rely heavily upon EIA data when making legislative, regulatory, investment, and other decisions, underestimation can have multiple adverse impacts on the renewable energy industry and, more broadly, on the nation’s environmental and energy future,” noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Consequently, EIA is doing a serious disservice to the public by publishing analyses that are inherently inconsistent with its own historical data and near-term projections.”

The SUN DAY Campaign has published its own full 32-page report that includes the assumptions and projections made, on a technology-by-technology basis, using EIA data. In addition, following the projections provided for each technology is a listing of recent studies and news reports that offer alternative or complementary scenarios – many of which are more aggressive than those provided by the SUN DAY Campaign. These additional studies suggest that even SUN DAY’s analysis may prove to be unduly conservative.

Renewable Energy Powers Asian Development Bank

Renewable Energy is now powering the Asian Development Bank (ABD). It’s Manila headquarters is now getting 100 percent of its energy from renewable energy including geothermal and solar power. ABD has signed an agreement with AdventEnergy, Inc. Geothermal energy is being delivered from plants in Tiwi in Albay province and Makiling-Banahaw in Laguna province, both of which are on the main Philippine island of Luzon.

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 11.35.18 AM“As an institution we are strongly committed to expanding the use of renewable energy across Asia and the Pacific, so it is only fitting that we walk the talk in our own headquarters,” said ADB Vice President Bruce Davis at a ceremony in ADB headquarters. “This agreement will allow us to cut our annual corporate carbon footprint by nearly 50%, with an emission reduction of more than 9,500 tons of CO2 equivalent.”

The supply contract with AdventEnergy will see ADB purchase an average of 1.5 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity a month. This will be supplemented by about 50,000 kWh generated monthly from ADB’s rooftop solar panels. These two sources will meet the entire energy requirements of the headquarters building, where more than 2,600 staff and consultants work each day.

With the switch to renewables, ADB will no longer purchase electricity directly from the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), although it will continue to use the company’s distribution network. The move follows ADB’s decision to take advantage of electricity reforms in the Philippines which allow large users to choose their power supplier.

A ceremony to mark the switchover to full renewable power was the centerpiece of ADB’s second “No Impact Week,” during which staff are encouraged to make work and personal lifestyle changes to reduce their carbon footprint and impact on the environment.

California Geothermal Potential Largely Untapped

geysers_unit_18The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) has released a new report to coincide with the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) development of a scoping plan for implementing their climate law AB 32. The report finds that California’s geothermal resources are remain largely untapped.

Geothermal power is “a viable, cost effective, and plentiful renewable energy option to meet California’s climate goals,” GEA told CARB. Utilizing the Golden State’s geothermal resources can help achieve “carbon reductions with the least total cost and highest power system reliability,” GEA reports.

In brief, the status report, Report on the State of Geothermal Energy in California, shows that:

  • Geothermal power generated 4.4% of total system power in California in 2012, but could have generated substantially more.
  • Geothermal power produces some of the lowest life-cycle emissions when compared to almost every other energy technology and even some renewables.
  • Depending on the resource characteristics and plant design, geothermal power plants can be engineered to provide firm and/or flexible power.
  • Even with high upfront capital costs, geothermal power is a competitive renewable energy source.
  • About half of California’s identified geothermal resources are still untapped, and significant resources may remain undiscovered.
  • Geothermal power is key to achieving an expanded renewable power portfolio at the lowest total cost.
  • New technology will reduce geothermal power risks and can expand the supply curve to make more resources commercially available.
  • The Salton Sea Known Geothermal Resource Area (SSKGRA) is considered by many to be the best opportunity for growth in California in the near term.
  • Distributed generation geothermal power and heating projects have potential in a number of areas, but are not eligible for the type of support provided other distributed generation projects.
  • Challenges to growth of utility scale plants include weak demand, inadequate transmission, permitting delays, and a lack of coordinated policies.

DOE Awards $3M for Geothermal Development

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 12.28.17 PMThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $3 million to spur geothermal energy development using play fairway analysis. This technique identifies prospective geothermal resources in areas with no obvious surface expression by mapping the most favorable intersections of heat, permeability, and fluid. The technique is commonly used in oil and gas exploration but has of yet, has not been widely used in the geothermal industry. By improving success rates for exploration drilling, this data-mapping tool could help attract investment in geothermal energy projects and significantly lower the costs of geothermal energy.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 30 gigawatts of undiscovered hydrothermal energy potential exist untapped beneath the Earth’s surface – nearly 10 times the current installed capacity of geothermal energy in the United States. One of the keys to tapping this clean resource is reducing the cost and risk of locating it. Play fairway analysis projects could unlock significant geothermal energy resources and accelerate industry-wide adoption of this tool, by quantifying and reducing the risk of exploratory drilling,

The DOE will support one-year collaborative research and development projects, especially in new, unexplored areas, that adapt play fairway analysis to geothermal exploration. These projects selected will focus on using existing geologic and geophysical data to develop maps that identify areas with a higher probability of containing a geothermal resource. The research also seeks to develop a methodology for exploration of geothermal resources in a particular region, or play.