In an atmosphere of business and technology, the event leads in to its final day, as conference attendees focus on partnership at the Geothermal Energy Expo.
Leslie Blodgett, GEA ~ On Tuesday morning, the geothermal industry’s major annual event bid a heavy adieu to the government employees involved in geothermal programs who had to leave early due to the U.S. congressional stalemate and government shutdown. But the show must go on, and the day was filled with Expo hall networking, presentations from international visitors, and other workshops and business meetings alongside technical sessions organized by our industry’s academic group, the GRC.
An open meeting for GEA’s PR Committee had a meta discussion on geothermal energy’s public image. In the context of the surrounding atmosphere of visuals including technology on the Expo floor and graphic representations from workshop speakers, posters, and technical sessions, PR participants discussed how to translate all of that into hard-hitting media messaging. The group discussed how explanations behind complicated technologies essential to development are not always accessible. The added layers of political regulation don’t make it any easier for regional communities, where projects have immediate significance, to see the long-term investment that geothermal provides.
Partnerships are needed across these rifts in the public dialogue as utilities and municipalities seek to meet RPS statutes and new EPA criteria with renewable energy, and the PR group discussed benefits distinct to geothermal. For example, geologists and geophysicists can uniquely draw from past oil and gas community experience in some areas to help them understand what is happening below ground. Geothermal is also compatible with other renewables, playing a firm and flexible hand to fill gaps of intermittent solar and wind. The PR group explored outlets for closing the disconnect.
The Expo hall was open all day, and participants were busy making their own connections. Some said they have attended the Expo for upwards of 30 years; others were here for the first time, many crossing continents to be here.
International visitors traveled from nearly 40 different countries, and several visiting representatives made remarks in the Expo’s presentation area throughout the day. The morning session saw presentations from: Ali Karaduman, MOGAN Energy and Investment Holding & GURMAT Electricity Generation Co., Turkey: “Development of Gurmat Geothermal Project and Planned Expansions”; Noriaki Taketani, The Energy Conservation Center, Japan: “Activities of Japanese Business Alliance for Smart Energy Worldwide”; Dr. Horst Kreuter, Geothermal Power Tanzania & GeoThermal Engineering, Germany: “Geothermal Project Development in Tanzania”; Alexander Richter, Green Energy Group, Iceland: “Turn-Key Modular Geothermal Wellhead Power Plants – Solution for Rapid Deployment and Earlier Power Online”; Gary Hilberg, TAS Energy, Iceland: “Renewable Energy Development Success with Government Support.”
International visitors took the opportunity to introduce their contributions and comment on the global industry as a whole. At an event where some U.S. companies have worked to create decades-long bonds, presenters commented on the need for that type of long-term partnership between geothermal markets around the world. Installed geothermal capacity recently surpassed 12,000 MW globally, and such partnerships could help to ensure that the ~27 GW now actively being pursued will lead to power plant generation over the next decade.
Afternoon speakers were from the East Africa delegation: Meseret Teklemariam Zemedkun (Ph.D), United Nations Environment Programme, Kenya: “Scenario and Strategy of Geothermal Development in the East Africa Region”; Francis Makhanu, KenGen, Kenya: “Geothermal Development in Kenya: Opportunities and Challenges as of September 2013”; Merga Tassew and Solomon Kebede, Ethiopian Electric Power Cooperation, Ethiopia: “EEPCO’s Plan to Develop Geothermal Power and Geothermal Resource of Ethiopia”; and Simon Ngure, KenGen, Kenya.
Clearly, East Africa’s interest in continuing and expanding U.S. partnership runs deep. This was also reflected in GEA’s September international report, which showed Kenya as one of the fastest growing geothermal markets in the world.
After the official program closed its doors for the day, attendees had several options for continued networking. For the first time, the women in the geothermal industry held a forum to exchange ideas on increasing the opportunities for women in a typically male-dominated industry. One woman said her career as a geophysicist has spanned 30 years, and added that she has not seen a rise in the percentage of women in her field. The Women in Geothermal group was hatched by Elise Brown and Bill Glassley of the California Geothermal Energy Collaborative and included ~50 women as well as several men, representing a sense of community. Group leadership indicated plans for future events and ideas for supporting women in the future of geothermal success in the wider community.