Leading news: New geothermal risks report; Congressional briefing; Rep. Waxman retiring; Voters want clean energy; Role of GHPs

GEA has a new report out, and this one looks at the unique, manageable risks of geothermal energy. Last week, scientific experts presented geothermal energy to congressional staff. Rep. Henry Waxman, who made energy and the environment an important part of his legacy, is retiring. Voters want clean energy. Geothermal heat pumps are important for the U.S. future. And our Graph of the Week looks at geothermal fields in California:

Graph of the Week: Power Capacity and Potential at California Geothermal Fields

California Geothermal Fields Capacity and Potential 2014
California’s nine geothermal development fields are shown with nameplate capacity from 2004 and 2014, as well as total estimated field generation capacity. The estimates are derived from probabilistic heat-in-place figures; as is shown in the cases of The Geysers and the Heber fields, it is possible to exceed the estimated reserves. Sources: GEA data and California Energy Commission

Above: California has just begun to tap into its geothermal potential. Our Graph of the Week lists the nine geothermal power producing fields in the state, most of which, with the likely exception of The Geysers and the Heber fields, have a significant amount of untapped potential for power generation. The largest missed opportunity depicted above is the Salton Sea area in Imperial County. This area’s unique geology created the perfect circumstances for hot geothermal fluids to seep to the surface, becoming available to generate power. A range of studies estimate the field’s generation capacity between 1,700 and 2,900 MW. Imperial Irrigation District plans to build up to 1,700 MW of new geothermal capacity at this field as the Salton Sea recedes to help mitigate air pollution and control habit degradation. However, IID suggested new transmission upgrades and blanket permitting are necessary before this process can begin. If these plans come to fruition this could be a boon to the quiet geothermal industry in California providing firm, flexible, and renewable power to California. (Ben Matek, GEA staff, contributed to this.)

GEA Profiles the Unique Manageable Risks of Geothermal Energy
Experts Brief Congressional Staff on Geothermal Resources and Values
Clean Air Champion Rep. Waxman Announces Retirement
New National Poll Finds 7 in 10 Voters Support Strong Carbon Pollution Limits on Power Plants
Geothermal Heat Pump Systems Crucial to U.S. Energy Policy

GEA Profiles the Unique Manageable Risks of Geothermal Energy
riskreportcoverThe Geothermal Energy Association has a new report available to the public. “The Manageable Risks of Conventional Hydrothermal Geothermal Power Systems” focuses on the unique risk profile of conventional geothermal power development, where the “one size fits all” approach may be off the mark for geothermal investments.

The economics and risks that are undertaken by companies, investors, and governments, when developing a geothermal power plant are unique from other sources of energy, and as such, risks must be mitigated differently. For example, traditional geothermal systems have more limitations to project location than do wind, solar, or fossil fuel projects. GEA’s new report summarizes these risks at different stages of the development process, particularly the drilling and exploration stages, where the largest barriers to the development of conventional hydrothermal systems tend to come into play.

The report also provides a look at the past and current policy and market approaches, both within the U.S. and internationally, that are designed and dedicated to address these risks in areas of exploration, technological barriers, drilling success, and the ability to obtain project financing.

“The Manageable Risks of Conventional Hydrothermal Geothermal Power Systems” includes visual graphs and links to further reading. It is intended as a companion to “The Values of Geothermal Energy,” and both reports are available at geo-energy.org

The GEA’s library of reports with extensive industry information on geothermal development is available on its Web site. GEA is currently gathering information for its 2014 U.S. Geothermal Power Production and Development Report, an update on the geothermal projects that are being developed around the nation that is based on industry feedback. The GEA has provided an industry update to the public annually for several years. If you or your organization are involved in developing geothermal projects in the U.S., or you know of a project and would like to see the GEA follow up on it, the GEA invites you to provide information for inclusion in the 2014 report. Please contact Benjamin Matek at ben@geo-energy.org or at (202) 454-5291 by February 15, 2014.

Experts Brief Congressional Staff on Geothermal Resources and Values
Geothermal energy was the topic of a congressional briefing to an audience of 50 staff members on January 29. At the event, a panel of experts discussed “Geothermal Energy Transformations: Nationwide Resources and Value Chains.” This was the second in a series of briefings on energy sources derived from geological resources (petroleum, natural gas, coal, uranium, thorium, geothermal, and water). The series is facilitated by a group of scientific and geological organizations. For the geothermal installment, presentations were made by: Brian Anderson, Director of Strategic Research in Energy and Professor, West Virginia University; Patrick Dobson, Staff Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Chad Augustine, Geothermal Analysis Team Lead, National Renewable Energy Laboratory; and the session was moderated by Douglas Hollett, Director, U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Office. Click here to view the presentations.

Clean Air Champion Rep. Waxman Announces Retirement
This week Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), whom NPR called “a ferocious liberal voice on matters of health and the environment,” and who has expressed concern for geothermal energy budget cuts in the past, announced he will not be seeking re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives. He said in both his retirement statement, and in the NPR interview, that his main reasons for leaving after an impressive 40-year, 20-term run are to give someone new a chance to make a difference and to explore a life outside of Congress.

Greg Wetstone, VP for Government Affairs at Terra-Gen Power, a GEA Board-level member company, worked for the Representative from 1982 to 1995. He tells GEA, “Henry Waxman has long been a force for renewable energy, and his decision not to seek re-election after forty years of service deprives us of a great champion. His record of legislative accomplishments – including the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, tobacco regulation, health care, and a long list of others, is stunning in any era, and especially so in the current climate of legislative gridlock. He has shown himself to be one of the most effective legislators in American History, with a brilliant sense for how to get things done – even, at times, when key leaders of both parties were opposed.

“We still have lots of friends and allies on Capitol Hill, but none will replace Henry Waxman,” Wetstone said.

Rep. Waxman laid out his views on protecting the environment and fighting climate change by reducing harmful emissions in his retirement statement:

In perhaps no area have the special interests held more sway than environmental policy, and I have battled them to protect clean air and safe drinking water throughout my career. It took a decade of effort to pass the landmark Clean Air Act of 1990, but the controls on urban smog, toxic air pollution, acid rain, and ozone-depleting chemicals have saved lives and vastly improved our air quality.

In recent years, I have been leading the fight in Congress for limits on the carbon pollution that is causing global climate change. In 2009, I joined with now Senator Ed Markey to pass to the Waxman-Markey climate bill through the House. Last Congress, I formed a Safe Climate Caucus in the House and a Bicameral Task Force with Senator Whitehouse to build public support for the effort to protect our fragile atmosphere for our children and grandchildren.

Even if Congress won’t act on climate, President Obama can. The President has laid out a plan to reduce emissions by 17% by 2020, the goal we set in the House legislation. And he is working with other nations to set an ambitious target for post-2020 reductions. Whether Congress acts or not, the Clean Air Act gives President Obama – and future Presidents – ample authority to achieve these emission reductions.

New National Poll Finds 7 in 10 Voters Support Strong Carbon Pollution Limits on Power Plants
By Sustainable Energy Coalition/SUN Day Campaign, source: Sierra Club ~ A new national survey conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research found support among voters by a nearly a 2-to-1 margin for moving away from coal and other dirty fuels and a preference for investing in clean energy (61% clean energy vs. 33% traditional sources). A strong majority of voters (58%) favor the U.S. setting national goals to move away from coal and other fossil fuels and replace them with clean, renewable sources by the year 2030. Seven-in-ten Americans favor the EPA putting limits on the amount of carbon pollution that power plants can release.

Geothermal Heat Pump Systems Crucial to U.S. Energy Policy
Following President Obama’s January 2014 State of the Union address, the National Ground Water Association released a statement from Chief Executive Officer Kevin McCray: “One piece of an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy policy must be geothermal heat pump systems,” McCray said. “Geothermal heat pump systems are a clean, renewable, thermal energy technology that creates thousands of U.S. jobs in the manufacturing, distribution, and installation sectors. They can be used effectively almost anywhere in the United States and are available 24/7 drawing on the thermal energy resources under our feet.” McCray concluded, “Our NGWA members look forward to doing our part to help move our nation toward energy independence and a cleaner world.”

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