Leading news: Geothermal Needs Level Playing Field; GEA Celebrates “Honors” Winners

This post brings you the week’s “Top news for geothermal development and GEA members”

But first, the visual below, prepared by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), shows the average length of time for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process for geothermal projects as compared to the timelines for average solar and wind development, as well as for oil and gas. The longer lead time for geothermal projects is something that regulators and energy market planners are only beginning to understand. DOE’s EERE Geothermal Technologies Office and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have produced an online collection of resources covering energy and bulk transmission projects called the Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop (RAPID) Toolkit. Click here to access RAPID.

DOEComparisonDevelopmentProcessTimelines

Click below to keep reading “This week’s top news for geothermal development and GEA members”

*Geothermal a Focus in Congressional Hearings
*Geothermal Energy Association Names Winners for GEA Honors 2014
*GEA Exhibits Geothermal to Congressional Audience
*Don’t Delay Climate Action, Says White House Report
*EPA Seeking Feedback on Clean Power Plan
*GEA Seeking Feedback on Framework for UNFC Geothermal Code

Geothermal a Focus in Congressional Hearings
On Tuesday, July 29, there were two hearings in U.S. Congress subcommittees that are significant to the geothermal industry. A House subcommittee discussed three bills, with two specifically relating to geothermal development, while a Senate subcommittee looked at permitting needs.

US Geothermal rep Scott Nichols and BLM Renewable Energy Team Leader Ray Brady

US Geothermal Permitting and Lands Manager Scott Nichols and BLM Renewable Energy Team Leader Ray Brady on the morning of legislative hearings that could affect geothermal development. Photo: GEA

The U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources (of the Committee on Natural Resources) covered three bills. In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn referred at length to current setbacks for geothermal that could be improved with legislation. “The geothermal NEPA review process requires over 175 document sets for each project,” the Chairman explained. “This is not 175 required documents–but document sets–which equates to hundreds or even thousands of pages of documents for one project. These requirements are significant setbacks and lead to extremely long delays in geothermal production.”

The Subcommittee also released a visual timeline (shown at the top of this page) which documents the disparate treatment geothermal projects face compared to wind and solar. “It’s shocking that federal agencies treat geothermal projects so harshly under NEPA,” notes Karl Gawell, GEA’s Executive Director. “This means that heavy-handed NEPA requirements are tipping the scales against geothermal energy.”

“The “Geothermal Energy on Federal Lands Act” [H.R. 1363] will streamline the NEPA process for a geothermal test project which will allow a geothermal project to quickly move forward if resources are found. Permitting this simple project which disturbs only a small amount of ground, often in areas where activity is already taking place, can take up to 10 months but is often held up for more than a year. Streamlining this permitting process will allow geothermal resources to be expeditiously discovered and utilized,” Chairman Lamborn said. “The “Geothermal Production Expansion Act” [H.R. 2004] would allow for non-competitive geothermal leasing on federal land adjacent to private lands that are primary resources for geothermal energy.”

The third bill discussed at the hearing was H.R. 596, or “Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act of 2013,” which aims to promote the development of renewable energy on public lands.

Scott Nichols (pictured), representing company U.S. Geothermal, testified at the hearing. In his prepared statement, he says, “U.S. Geothermal and the Geothermal Energy Association strongly support House Bill 2004, the Geothermal Production Expansion Act of 2013. Very simply, H.R. 2004 allows a developer that has taken the high risk of exploration and invested significant capital in the discovery of a commercial geothermal resource, the ability to add up to 640 acres of adjoining, lands administered by the Federal government lands so that exploration and development of the geothermal resource can advance without exposing the project to the high cost of delay and speculative bidding.”

The Geothermal Energy Association provided a written statement for record about geothermal energy, with details on the background, current markets, resource potential, and current barriers:

“Geothermal is a largely untapped resource which holds significant promise to be part of our nation’s future energy mix. To do so, we will need to reduce the long lead-time and risks associated with geothermal project development,” according to the GEA statement. “GEA supports both HR 1363 and HR 2004. Both seek to address the uncertainty involved in developing geothermal resources and by reducing risk and reducing lead times will help achieve the potential of geothermal energy. In addition, we encourage the Committee to examine provisions in related bills that would support exploration drilling and facilitate co-production of geothermal power from oil and gas leases.”

Also on Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing looked at “Breaking the Logjam at BLM: Examining Ways to More Efficiently Process Permits for Energy Production on Federal Lands.”

Nichols provided testimony at this hearing as well. His comments (see energy.senate.gov, PDF) support “action requiring agencies to rigidly define NEPA implementation and federal regulations.” He writes, “Documentation has become more important than good science … [I]t is incumbent upon our elected leadership to mandate the regulatory changes that will provide flexibility for renewable energy developments that also provide streamlined, measurable, performance-based requirements for our federal resource managers to work within.”

Geothermal Energy Association Names Winners for GEA Honors 2014
GEA Press Release (Washington, D.C.) July 28–Awards to be Presented at National Geothermal Summit on August 5–The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) announced today the winners of their 2014 GEA Honors, which recognizes 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. GEA will present the Honors at an awards ceremony as part of the upcoming National Geothermal Summit being held in Reno August 5th and 6th.

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: Under the leadership and vision of James Cleo Hanks, president, IID Board of Directors, Imperial Irrigation District, in partnership with the County of Imperial, embarked upon the Salton Sea Restoration & Renewable Energy Initiative in 2013. This initiative was designed to help address the Salton Sea crisis by siting renewable energy projects on the exposed lakebed which would environmental impacts, fund wildlife habitat and air quality management projects, and spur local economic development and job creation.

Technological Advancement: Awarded for developing a new, innovative or pioneering technology to further geothermal development.  There are three companies being awarded for Technological Advancement in 2014. They are:

  • Baker Hughes: Baker Hughes created a prototype directional drilling system capable of operating at 300°C in Enhanced Geothermal Systems wells which provides the ability to actively steer a high-temperature production well into the optimum position to realize an efficient heat transfer mechanism, maximizing potential geothermal energy generation. Not only is this tool used for EGS, but it is likely to be equally useful in conventional hydrothermal high-temperature situations.
  • POWER Engineers: The Kizildere II Geothermal Power Plant in Turkey, designed by POWER Engineers, uses an advanced triple-flash cycle to overcome the limitations that accompany typical flash or binary cycles. This new hybrid triple-flash/binary plant design, incorporating provisions for district heating and with features patented by POWER Engineers, uses a novel approach to deal with the high-CO2 geofluids found in this reservoir in Turkey, and should be applicable to a number of other prospects around the world that present similar challenges.
  • Ormat Technologies, Inc.: Ormat’s Don A. Campbell Geothermal Project uses a new, innovative, low temperature ORC cycle utilizing a butane working fluid that is capable of producing affordable, utility scale power using a resource with a reservoir temperature as low as 260 degrees Fahrenheit.

Economic Development: Awarded for making a substantial contribution to the development of local, regional or national markets through the development of geothermal systems. The winner is:

  • Dewhurst Group/Grupo Dewhurst: Dewhurst Group has been directly participating in the development of the first Geothermal Power Plant in Colombia, which has resulted in an economic boon in the Manizales and Nereidas valley regions with full time and part time employment of graduating geology students and locals in their South American subsidiary, Grupo Dewhurst. With the geothermal resource potential in Colombia, the work that Dewhurst Group is doing will spur further interest in geothermal and economic development within Colombia, opening this relatively untapped market to both foreign and domestic investment.

Special Recognition: The Special Recognition Award is presented to the following companies and individuals for their outstanding achievement in the geothermal industry:

  • Mono County Board of Supervisors: Through their creation of the Long Valley Hydrologic Advisory Committee, the Mono County Board of Supervisors has played a key role in the evaluation of hydrologic monitoring data, proprietary geothermal production and injection data, and in the siting and permitting of multiple exploration and development projects in the Long Valley caldera in Mono County, California for almost 30 years.
  • AltaRock Energy Inc.: AltaRock has developed, patented and tested a methodology for blocking natural and enhanced permeability to stimulate multiple zones in a well using thermally degradable polymers, which has been used successfully at the Newberry Volcano EGS Demonstration.
  • The National Geothermal Data System (NGDS): This data system provides free public access to digital geothermal data from all 50 states, with the aim to reduce costs and risks associated with geothermal development and aid in evolving the US energy portfolio towards green energy solutions.
  • Bill Price- Enel Green Power North America: Over the past seven years, Bill Price has been the mind and drive behind the world’s most innovative geothermal projects, carrying on in Nevada and Utah the Enel tradition begun at Larderello. In this time he has not only brought online 70+ MW of new binary geothermal capacity, but he has twice spearheaded first-in-the-world technological innovations that support greater growth for the geothermal industry in the years ahead. Mr. Price’s ability to turn ideas into megawatts and his commitment to the future of the industry make him deserving of the GEA’s special recognition.
  • Dita Bronicki- Ormat: Dita’s energy, enterprise and talent have helped make the Ormat Group a leader in the field of renewable energy production, and especially the geothermal industry, in line with the most advanced and largest energy companies in the world. From the installation of Ormat’s first commercial geothermal power plant in 1984, to growing the Ormat Group to over 1,600 MW of supplied capacity worldwide and over 600 MW of operating capacity from both geothermal and recovered energy power worldwide, Dita’s leadership has been there every step of the way.
  • James C. Hanks, President, Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors: President Hanks is being honored for his courage and vision in addressing the Salton Sea crisis through the innovative use of the natural resources that abound in IID’s service area. Under his leadership, IID has demonstrated, through the use of investment and political capital, its commitment to advancing renewable energy development–particularly the resurgence of geothermal energy development—in its service area for the benefit of the Salton Sea, the region, California and future generations.
  • Greg Mines is recognized for his work in Power plant, GETEM and other analysis work he has performed in the last 30 plus years.  He has been a go-to guy at the national labs for all power plant related activities and is well respected in the industry.
  • Hillary Hanson and Rachel Wood 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.

Event and registration details for the National Geothermal Summit can be found at http://www.geo-energy.org/nationalgeothermalsummit/Main.aspx. For more information or to schedule an interview with a GEA representative, please contact Shawna McGregor, The Rosen Group, 917 971 7852 or shawna@rosengrouppr.com.

GEA Exhibits Geothermal to Congressional Audience
On Thursday, July 31, the Geothermal Energy Association will be exhibiting at the 17th annual Congressional Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency EXPO + Forum on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, and Executive Director Karl Gawell will speak at the Forum portion of the event. The event is free and open to the public, no RSVP required.

The EXPO + Forum is hosted by the Sustainable Energy Coalition, along with honorary co-hosts the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Caucuses, and in partnership with the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, Congressional Energy Savings Performance Contract Caucus, High Performance Building Caucus, Green Schools Caucus, and Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Caucus.

This year’s EXPO expects to bring together nearly forty businesses, sustainable energy industry trade associations, government agencies, and energy policy research organizations to showcase the status and near-term potential of the cross-section of renewable energy (biofuels/biomass, geothermal, solar, water, wind) and energy efficiency technologies.

The morning program will feature Members of the U.S. Congress and officials from the Department of Defense, and throughout the day speakers will discuss – in person and via live webcast – the role sustainable energy technologies can play in meeting America’s energy, economic, and security needs.

Don’t Delay Climate Action, Says White House Report
This week the White House released a new report from the Council of Economic Advisers called “The Cost of Delaying Action to Stem Climate Change.” The report finds that delaying policy action is costly, leading to higher CO2 concentrations and thus greater economic and environmental damage. In a scenario delaying action by a decade, the total mitigation costs increase by approximately 40%. The report also underlines evidence that uncertainty around the most severe consequences of climate change adds urgency to the need for implementation, referring to mitigating policies as “insurance” against climate catastrophe.

EPA Seeking Feedback on Clean Power Plan
The public comment period on the Clean Power Plan of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is open. This plan falls under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and seeks to cut pollution from power plants, the largest source of harmful emissions. In a blog post, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says, “We’ve met with 60 different groups in just the first 25 business days after our proposal. We’ve received more than 300,000 comments so far, and expect many more. We want no stone unturned; and no good idea off the table.” EPA is also holding public hearings (www2.epa.gov). For instructions to submit comments, visit go.usa.gov/XzNH.

GEA Seeking Feedback on Framework for UNFC Geothermal Code
The Geothermal Energy Association is working with members of the industry to develop a United Nations Framework Classification for geothermal resources and development. For the “Skeleton Framework for UNFC Code” and to provide feedback, click here. This project will also be discussed at the National Geothermal Summit next week on Monday, August 4, 2014, 3:00-5:30pm in a Pre-Summit Workshop.

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