Clean Geothermal Makes Headlines as Nation Prioritizes the Environment

See below for “This week’s top news for geothermal development and GEA members”

As the Obama administration moves forward on climate initiatives, the data in the image below show the environmentally friendly nature of geothermal technologies. Geothermal technology is considered environmentally benign and any emissions are negligible when compared with using technologies that involve combustion of fossil fuels. When comparing the CO2 emissions data obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Energy Information Administration (EIA) for coal and natural gas power plants, the average rate of carbon dioxide emissions is about 2200 lbs CO2/MWh and 861 lbs CO2/MWh, respectively. Geothermal systems, on the other hand, produce significantly less emissions, approximately 197 lbs CO2/MWh. Most new geothermal plants being built in the U.S. use binary technology, which produce zero or near-zero emissions.

Continue reading for this week’s top news from the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA).

Background photo by Sam Abraham; graphic editing by Rob Chester

*National Geothermal Data System Debuts at White House “Energy Datapalooza”
*Administration Considering Environment in More of its Decisions, Says President Obama
*California Legislators to Bring Geothermal Bill to the Floor 
*For The First Time Ever, Non-Hydro Renewables Out-Produce Hydropower
*Ormat Technologies: Geothermal Plant Tour Detailed 
*Enel Green Power: Company Is a Finalist for Utah Energy Innovator of the Year

National Geothermal Data System Debuts at White House “Energy Datapalooza”

The White House, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the General Services Administration chose the National Geothermal Data System (NGDS) as part of its 2014 Energy Datapalooza Innovation Showcase. “The Energy Datapalooza highlights private-sector innovators harnessing the power of data to build the clean energy economy,” according to a press release, which provides details of the NGDS:

NGDS was created and deployed in response to the Obama Administration’s Open Data Policy and the industry demand for better scientific data about the subsurface. Populated with geothermal-relevant data from all 50 states, NGDS has the potential to fundamentally change America’s energy portfolio by driving efficient exploration for clean, renewable energy from Earth’s interior. State geological surveys, academic institutions, and the private sector from throughout the country contribute to NGDS by digitizing and making available online more than 30 major types of data resulting in the availability of over 34,000 geologic maps, reports, and documents, and more than 9 million interoperable data points.

Already, NGDS’s publicly accessible, free data is providing tangible value to the industry. For example, Schlumberger, a global industry leader serving the oil & gas sectors, was able to make better drilling decisions because of raw temperature data supplied to NGDS. Additionally, through NGDS data, Big D Engineering discovered a basin of geothermal brine under much of Hidalgo County, Texas, and is now exploring the feasibility of turning non-potable, brackish geopressured-geothermal water into clean drinking water.

Click here for the full press release. Click here for a DOE article. Visit the NGDS here.

Administration Considering Environment in More of its Decisions, Says President Obama

This week, President Obama offered comments on the government’s climate responsibilities. The administration will actively consider the environment and the problems of global warming in more of its decisions that could include bridge heights, flood insurance rates, and military electricity overseas. The President ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to propose carbon emissions limits from existing coal- and gas-fired utilities by 2015. He also made his boldest statement yet on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, saying it will only be approved if it “does not significantly exacerbate the climate problem.” []

California Legislators to Bring Geothermal Bill to the Floor 

In California, Senate Bill 1139 would require utilities in the state to procure 500 MW of energy from geothermal plants. This bill has been under discussion by state legislators this month and was scheduled for discussion on the California Senate floor this week. The bill was heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 23 and passed out of the Suspense File with a 5-2 vote. [] “We expect that the net result of this legislation will be cost-savings for Californians,” said Karl Gawell, GEA’s ED. “As the E3 report [PDF] concluded in January, an RPS with greater diversity and more geothermal will benefit the state, consumers and the environment.”

For The First Time Ever, Non-Hydro Renewables Out-Produce Hydropower

SUN DAY Campaign Press Release (Washington DC) May 22 ~ For apparently the first time ever, during the first quarter of 2014, electricity generated by non-hydro renewables (i.e., biomass, geothermal, solar, wind) exceeded that provided by conventional hydropower. This is according to data in the latest issue of the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) “Electric Power Monthly,” with preliminary data through to March 31, 2014.

Non-hydro renewables provided 53.16 percent of the net U.S. electrical generation from renewable energy sources for the period January 1 to March 31, 2014 while hydropower provided the balance of 46.84 percent.

This reflects an increase of 11.3 percent in electrical generation by non-hydro renewables compared to the first quarter to 2013 as well as a decline of 4.5 percent in hydropower’s output — possibly contributed to by the worsening drought in California. Notably, electrical generation from solar photovoltaic and solar thermal grew by 103.8 percent while wind expanded by12.6 percent; biomass also increased by 2.2 percent, but geothermal dipped by 3.3 percent.

Electrical generation from all renewable energy sources combined, including hydropower, was 3.29 percent higher during the first quarter of 2014 compared to the first three months of 2013 and accounted for 13.09 percent of net U.S. electrical generation. Hydropower accounted for 6.13 percent of net U.S. electrical generation for the period, followed by wind (4.82 percent), biomass (1.46 percent), geothermal (0.39 percent), and solar (0.29 percent). According to the EIA, “these additions understate actual solar capacity gains. Unlike other energy sources, significant levels of solar capacity exist in smaller, non-utility-scale applications — e.g., rooftop solar photovoltaics.”

For more than a decade, renewable energy sources — led by wind and solar — have been rapidly expanding their share of the nation’s electrical generation. The most recent data affirm that the trend is continuing unabated.

Ormat Technologies: Geothermal Plant Tour Detailed 

In an article on, the author reports on a public tour to the McGinness Hills geothermal plant in northern Nevada, operated by Ormat Technologies. Geology, history of geothermal application in the region by Native Americans, and current efforts to maintain habitat for animals like the sage grouse, are discussed, as well as the plant’s operations. “The McGinness Hills plant averages 35 megawatts of power production 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year — an advantage boasted by geothermal plants, which don’t slow down at night or on calm-wind days, said Peterson. The power travels via a transmission line about nine miles south to an NV Energy substation. Ormat pays a 1.75 percent royalty to the federal government on gross sales. After 10 years that number will almost double, Peterson said, to 3 percent,” according to the article.

Enel Green Power: Company Is a Finalist for Utah Energy Innovator of the Year

Enel Green Power North America, Inc., a GEA member, has been announced as a finalist for “Energy Innovator of the Year” as part of Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert’s second annual Governor’s Excellence in Energy Awards. Finalists will be announced at the Governor’s Energy Development Summit on June 4 at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

A press release from the Utah Office of Energy Development states that the finalists “were selected from among dozens of worthy applications, all of which reflected the impressive variety of energy development activities underway in Utah. Please join us at the Governor’s Energy Development Summit on June 3-4 to recognize the Governor’s Excellence in Energy Award recipients and other finalists, all of whom are leaders in the advancement of Utah’s energy future.”

According to the release, “The Governor’s Energy Development Summit will continue to be the most important energy forum in the Intermountain West, helping position Utah for an exciting energy future characterized by a diversity of resources, responsible practices and steady economic growth.”

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