It’s a pleasant Sunday evening in Las Vegas, and the Opening Reception on the Geothermal Energy Expo floor is wrapping up. Representatives involved in a sometimes-challenging, always-fresh, and exciting global industry are kicking off this year’s GRC Annual Meeting and GEA Geothermal Energy Expo.
Leslie Blodgett, GEA ~ Bright and early Sunday morning, the Marquee Ballroom at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas looked more like a jungle gym of boxes, cases, and forklifts than the world’s premier geothermal energy trade show. The bustle of building exhibit booths could almost be reminiscent of a geothermal work site — without the drilling, of course. By evening, this ballroom of branded displays would be ready to host the Opening Reception of the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA)’s Geothermal Energy Expo® and its sister event, the Geothermal Resources Council’s Annual Meeting.
This year’s gathering, among the technical sessions and vendor booths, incorporates a wide range of meetings on international development. U.S. interest in exporting geothermal goods and services is ever-increasingly met with outside interest in U.S. knowledge and materials, particularly from developing countries. Last year over 2,300 representatives from at least 39 countries and six continents participated in the Expo. Today while booths were getting set up, companies and individuals interested or involved in international geothermal development filled a nearby meeting room to talk about details and strategy moving forward for the U.S. East Africa Geothermal Partnership (EAGP), launched last year by the U.S. Agency for International Development and GEA.
EAGP discussed its activities since its inception, including participation in the November 2012 ARGeo C-4 conference in Nairobi, several training modules in Kenya, and its budding presence in the region — in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. The EAGP sponsored 9 East African delegates on exchange program to attend this week’s event. Next year it intends to sponsor both an African delegation to the GEA’s April 2014 international event in Washington DC as well as U.S. industry reps wishing to attend the next ARGeo conference, which is slated for Nairobi in November 2014.
The EAGP discussion showed the organization is learning from its fledgling activities as it plans for a long-term U.S. presence in Africa. The program is invigorated by administrative support through President Obama’s Power Africa initiative, which emphasizes interagency coordination, and it defines its best options for success by tapping industry input. At the meeting, U.S. industry discussed its needs in Africa such as increased clarity and additional resource data in future open bids. The group intends to focus on these points as some of its key priorities, noted John Hammond, Acting EAGP Director and Senior Director of the U.S. Energy Association. Participants added that such improvements in the language of RFPs would likely lead to greater response from developers and help attract financiers. As the group works on existing issues, it also seeks experience from law firms, environmental consultants, and other experts. Large-scale power plants such as Kenya’s Menengai and Olkaria facilities could be joined by direct-use applications, a potential fit for African agricultural industries, in the EAGP objective spectrum.
By early afternoon, the international discussion had disbanded to make way for GEA’s Annual Members Meeting. GEA, with a membership of over 100 geothermal organizations, met to shape the trajectory of the organization for the year ahead considering a U.S. energy market in the midst of transition. Despite issues in stateside geothermal development, such as lengthy complicated permitting and high upfront costs, the energy mix is moving toward natural gas, renewables, and efficiency technologies; and geothermal’s baseload capability makes it a sensible replacement for retiring fossil fuel plants.
The Members Meeting also served as the venue for GEA’s annual elections. GEA members elected five of their own to seats on their Board of Directors: Domenic Falcone, Falcone Associates; John Fox, ElectraTherm; Mike Long, Galena Advisors/Power Engineers; John McKinsey, Lock Lord; and John Pritchett, SAIC. Later in the day, the Board of Directors voted to confirm five officers — Chairman: Jonathan Weisgall, MidAmerican Energy Holdings; President: Craig Matazcynski, Gradient; VP: Doug Glaspey, US Geothermal; VP: Terry Page, Enel Green Power North America; and Secretary-Treasurer: Joe Greco, Terra-Gen Power.
After a full day of planning, representatives were ready to rejoin their colleagues at the Opening Reception, sponsored by Power Engineers and Cameron International Corp. A walk through the hall of vendors who have come to Las Vegas to showcase their expertise reaffirmed the variety of skill needed to get a geothermal power plant built. The GEA looks forward to further networking and education for members and other representatives in geothermal resource exploration, characterization, development, production, and management over the coming three days.
Geothermal Energy Expo hours for the duration of the show: Sunday Sept. 29 6-8pm; Monday Sept. 30 12-5pm; Tuesday Oct. 1 9am-6pm; Wednesday Oct. 2 9am-12pm.