Leading news: Industry Gathers at National Geothermal Summit in Reno

This post brings you the week’s “Top news for geothermal development and GEA members,” including photos and coverage from this week’s National Geothermal Summit; winners of GEA Honors 2014; announcements from DOE’s geothermal program; and activities of the GEA’s member companies.

Photos from the National Geothermal Summit via Twitter users @shawnaseldon, @geothermaldata, @altarock, @PWREngineers, and @NevGOE
Photos from the National Geothermal Summit via Twitter users @shawnaseldon, @geothermaldata, @altarock, @PWREngineers, and @NevGOE

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

*Geothermal Summit Celebrates Progress, Discusses Market Needs  
*Geothermal Industry Toasts GEA Honors Winners at Summit Event
*Renewables, Efficiency Gather at Congressional Expo
*DOE Announces $18 Million for Innovative Projects to Advance Geothermal Energy
*DOE Addresses Optimizing Water Use in Geothermal Applications
*Alternative Earth Resources Signs Agreement to Sell Project Assets to Ormat
*Enel Green Power Signs First Cooperative R&D Agreement in the U.S. for Stillwater Hybrid Plant
*Pagosa Verde Hosts Symposium
*US Geothermal Inc. to Discuss First Quarter 2014 Earnings Results

Geothermal Summit Celebrates Progress, Discusses Market Needs  

Assemblyman David Bobzien, Nevada Assembly 21, addresses National Geothermal Summit attendees. Photo: GEA

GEA held its fourth annual National Geothermal Summit on Tuesday, August 5 and Wednesday, August 6 in Reno, Nevada. The industry met to discuss such issues as moving geothermal forward in Nevada; utility perspective on renewable portfolio standards and geothermal; the future of the renewable portfolio standard (RPS); tax perspectives; achieving the potential of the Salton Sea and Salton Sea Restoration Initiative; and regulatory matters including leasing, permitting, and sage grouse habitat considerations.

Notable speakers provided keynote addresses throughout the agenda, including: Senator Kelvin Atkinson, Nevada Senate District 4; Assemblyman David Bobzien, Nevada Assembly 21; Rebecca Wagner, Commissioner, Public Utilities Commission of Nevada; Karen Edson, Vice President, Policy and Client Services, California ISO; Rob Oglesby, Executive Director, California Energy Commission; and Doug Hollett, Program Director, U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Office. Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller provided Video Greetings. (Click here to see the full agenda).

“Moving geothermal forward in Nevada,” a plenary discussion at the 2014 National Geothermal Summit with Paul Thomsen, Governor’s Office of Energy, State of Nevada; Senator Kelvin Atkinson, Nevada Senate District 4; Assemblyman David Bobzien, Nevada Assembly 21; Fred Schmidt, Partner, Holland & Hart, LLP; and Jack McGinley, NV Energy. Photo: GEA
“The future of the RPS,” a plenary discussion at the 2014 National Geothermal Summit with Terry Page, Enel Green Power; Arne Olson, Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc; V. John White, CEERT; Rebecca Wagner, Public Utilities Commission of Nevada; Rob Oglesby, California Energy Commission; and Karen Edson, California ISO. Photo: GEA

Ahead of the main event, members of the media were given an exclusive tour of geothermal facilities including the Enel Green Power North America Stillwater Geothermal/Solar Hybrid plant, located in Churchill County, as well as Ormat Technologies’ Steamboat Complex.

Bill Price addresses the group at the Enel Green Power North America Stillwater Geothermal/Solar Hybrid plant. Photo: GEA
Bill Price at the Enel Green Power North America Stillwater Geothermal/Solar Hybrid plant. Photo: GEA
Bob Sullivan addresses the group at the Ormat Technologies Steamboat Complex. Photo: GEA

Industry leaders participated in a press conference on the day of the event to point out the status and issues in Western States geothermal development today.

Karl Gawell, Executive Director of the GEA said that policy is a key determiner for what will happen with geothermal growth. State policy decisions will continue to be the drivers, he said, and the decisions of the next five years will help to determine the long-term trajectory.

Paul Thomsen, Director at the State of Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy, said that while other states that have a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) are trying to determine how to meet their goals, Nevada has already met its RPS requirements ahead of schedule and with a geothermal-strong portfolio. The state has not stopped planning for additional renewable capacity, including additional geothermal, and its renewables approach with friendly policies and strong grid support recently won the state an Apple data center contract.

Randy Keller, Director of Development, Transmission & Land Assets, CalEnergy asserted the company’s success and commitment to its 10 operating geothermal facilities in California as well as its readiness to answer market demand for additional geothermal power.

Terry Page, Director of Regulatory Affairs Innovation, Enel Green Power noted there is renewed interest in California for geothermal technology as the state recognizes some of the shortfalls of bringing on too much intermittent power (i.e., from solar and wind sources).

Carl Stills, Energy Manager, Imperial Irrigation District discussed the District’s current policy initiative that calls for geothermal development at the Salton Sea as an economic aid to the goal of restoring the receding Sea. “Geothermal will be the perfect vehicle to help at the Salton Sea, and also meets AB-32,” Stills said.

Bob Sullivan, Vice President of Business Development, Ormat Technologies, said the U.S. is in “a period of significant change in the electrical grid.” Responding to a question about dispatchability, Sullivan called it “flexibility procurement” and said it is “one of geothermal’s hidden attributes.” Geothermal’s flexible dispatchability addresses a growing intermittence issue, he said.

In the past, Sullivan said, geothermal has been “pigeon-holed” under Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), “but it can be so much more than that,” he said. “It has all the attributes of a coal facility, the backbone of our electrical grid that we count on it day in and day out. Coal is being replaced with intermittents that you can’t count on, that need backup power. Geothermal provides inertia and voltage regulation, and also provides the green attributes.”

Doug Hollett, Program Director, U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Office said the agency seeks to advance the technologies and drive down the cost of developing attractive geothermal resources. “We’re seeing greater market awareness and increased exploration activities,” Hollett said. “Our feeling is that trend will continue. We’ve got a lot of geothermal out there that we sometimes forget to mention, Alaska, Hawaii. In some places it ends up offsetting diesel, which is just a wonderful story.”

Scott Nichols, US Geothermal, who also represented the company in July congressional hearings, said it is equally important to focus on streamlining issues of permitting and access to adjacent lands as it is focusing on on-the-ground implementation and administrative work. Tracy Sizemore, Vice President of Business Development, Simbol Material also participated.

The National Geothermal Summit is the leading forum for western state policy discussions, bringing together policy leaders, utilities and industry professionals to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the industry.

Read more about GEA’s National Geothermal Summit in the news:
“Geothermal Power Growing in Nevada,” by Paul Nelson (ktvn.com)
“A first-of-its-kind project makes energy from a triple whammy: Hot rocks, solar panels and mirrors,” by Katie Fehrenbacher (gigaom.com)
“Jim Hanks and IID along with IV County win Geothermal Energy Association Honors 2014” (thedesertreview.com)
“Northern Nevada leading conversations about renewable energy,” by Ashley Cullins (mynews4.com)
“Geothermal energy called slow, steady reliable resource,” by Whip Villarreal (reviewjournal.com)
“Is the US Geothermal Industry Back on Track?,” by Meg Cichon (renewableenergyworld.com)

Geothermal Industry Toasts GEA Honors Winners at Summit Event
Press Release (Reno, Nevada) August 5–The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) recognized the winners of their 2014 GEA Honors at a reception on August 5 from 5:00pm-6:30pm at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno. GEA Honors recognizes companies, projects, and individuals who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in the geothermal industry.

“Special Recognition” awardees for 2014 GEA Honors. Photo: GEA

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 reception as part of the National Geothermal Summit.

The Environmental Stewardship award recognizes an organization that is fostering outstanding environmental stewardship through the use of geothermal systems, and will be presented to The Salton Sea Restoration & Renewable Energy Initiative. 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. “It is our hope that a restored Salton Sea and the protection of our environment will be the legacy we leave behind. IID is grateful for the support of the Geothermal Energy Association and its members in helping us convey to important decision makers that sometimes the solutions we are seeking can be underneath our feet,” said Carl D. Stills, energy manager, Imperial Irrigation District.

The Technological Advancement honor is awarded for developing a new, innovative or pioneering technology to further geothermal development. The honorees include Baker Hughes, POWER Engineers and Ormat Technologies, Inc.

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. “Recognition by the GEA helps both bring awareness within our large company for the accomplishments of our project team, and brings industry awareness and will hopefully lead to industry adoption of the technology,” said Aaron Dick, Research Director, Baker Hughes. “The work we are being honored for would not have taken place in this time frame without the support of the US Department of Energy.”

Onlookers during the presentation of GEA Honors 2014 at the National Geothermal Summit in Reno, Nevada. Photo: GEA

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. “We are honored and pleased that GEA recognized the plant sets a new standard for innovative and ambitious heat recovery from a renewable energy resource,” said Kevin Wallace, P.E., Geothermal Projects Director at POWER Engineers. “The thing that makes our industry so unique in the power generation business is that each plant has different ‘fuel supply’ conditions. The unique combined cycle approach for this case really gets the most out of each contributing technology. And it’s the only type of configuration of its kind in the world.”

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. “We are honored to receive this GEA award,” said Isaac Angel, Ormat’s Chief Executive Officer. “This technology unlocks the potential for developing other low temperature geothermal resources all over the world, to generate clean, reliable and flexible renewable energy.”

The Economic Development honor is being awarded to Dewhurst Group/Grupo Dewhurst for making a substantial contribution to the development of local, regional or national markets through the development of geothermal systems. 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. “It is a great honor to be recognized for our hard work in helping develop geothermal projects both here in the US and abroad. Our success can be attributed, in no small part, to our focus on engaging with local communities to create socially and environmentally sustainable projects,” said Warren Dewhurst, CEO, Dewhurst Group/Grupo Dewhurst.

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; AltaRock Energy Inc.; The National Geothermal Data System (NGDS); Bill Price- Enel Green Power North America; Dita Bronicki- Ormat; James C. Hanks, President, Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors; Greg Mines, Idaho National Laboratory; Hillary Hanson and Rachel Wood, Idaho National Laboratory.

Renewables, Efficiency Gather at Congressional Expo
The Geothermal Energy Association exhibited geothermal energy to the U.S. congressional audience this past Thursday, July 31, along with nearly forty businesses representing the status of renewables and efficiency in the U.S. The cross-section of sustainable energy industry trade associations, government agencies, and energy policy research organizations gathered at the 17th annual Congressional Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency EXPO + Forum on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

GEA exhibits at the 17th annual Congressional Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency EXPO + Forum on Capitol Hill. Photo: GEA

The EXPO + Forum is hosted by the Sustainable Energy Coalition. Notable speakers and participants touring the exhibits included Asst Sec Army Kidd, Admiral Slater, Navy Energy, and DAS Tom Moorehouse, DOD Operational Energy, and Rear Adm Smith, SBA Emergency Preparedness Dir, as well as DOE’s Principle EERE to the DAS. We had Reps Van Hollen, Tonko, Congressional staff from both House and Senate offices, and GSA and DOD procurement officials.

That afternoon, Executive Director Karl Gawell spoke at the Forum portion of the event about the status of geothermal development and production. Gawell discussed the legislative hearings held earlier in the week in both House and Senate offices that could bring needed streamlining so that geothermal can be on a level playing field with other resources.

The U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Caucuses are honorary co-hosts of the annual event. The Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, Congressional Energy Savings Performance Contract Caucus, High Performance Building Caucus, Green Schools Caucus, and Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Caucus are partners.

DOE Announces $18 Million for Innovative Projects to Advance Geothermal Energy
Via DOE–In support of a low carbon future, the United States Department of Energy today announced up to $18 million for 32 projects that will advance geothermal energy development in the United States. The selected projects target research and development in three technology areas: advancing subsurface analysis and engineering techniques for enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), applying a mapping approach called play fairway analysis to discover new hydrothermal resources, and accelerating extraction technologies to unlock domestic supplies of critical and other high-value materials like lithium while further developing low- to moderate-temperature geothermal resources. Together, these projects will lower the cost and risk of geothermal development, thereby accelerating technological advancement and economical deployment of geothermal energy.

The selected projects fall into three categories:

Integrated EGS R&D ($10 million): Twelve collaborative enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) research and development projects will use novel techniques to increase the precision and accuracy of measuring critical underground reservoir properties over time. EGS are engineered reservoirs, created beneath the surface of the Earth, where there is hot rock but limited pathways through which fluid can flow. During EGS development, underground fluid pathways are safely created and their size and connectivity increased. These enhanced pathways allow fluid to circulate throughout the hot rock and carry heat to the surface to generate electricity. Project teams will focus on the integration of a variety of cutting-edge, complementary technologies and approaches in order to optimize the development and sustainability of EGS reservoirs. These awards, up to three years in length, will initially focus on laboratory feasibility studies – and later yield integrated characterization methods and prototypes ready to be validated in the field. Learn more about the research projects here.

Play Fairway Analysis ($4 million): Play fairway analysis, a subsurface mapping technique already used for oil and gas exploration, identifies prospective geothermal resources in areas with no obvious surface expression. This is done by detecting and plotting underground heat, permeability, and fluid to discover where all three are most likely to be present together. Eleven awards of up to $500,000 each will apply this analysis technique to help pinpoint where geothermal energy resources remain hidden beneath the Earth’s surface. Selected projects will study diverse territories across the United States – from as far west as Alaska’s Aleutian Islands chain and Hawaii, to the Cascade Range of Oregon, the Great Basin in Utah, the Rio Grande rift zone, and eastward to the Appalachian Basin in the mid-Atlantic region, where lower temperature geothermal resources could be tapped in the future. The resulting regional, basin-scale maps will serve to quantify and reduce uncertainty for geothermal energy exploration. By improving success rates for exploration drilling, play fairway analysis could significantly lower the costs of geothermal energy while opening up new areas to development. Click here for more specific project information on play fairway analysis selections.

Low-Temperature Geothermal Mineral Recovery Program ($4 million): Geothermal brine has the potential to contain relatively high concentrations of rare earths and other valuable materials. This targeted initiative focuses on combining mineral extraction with power generation as a path to producing commercially viable, low-to-moderate temperature geothermal resources, while boosting production of materials necessary for manufacturers of clean energy technologies and other industries. Nine awards ranging from $250,000 to $500,000 will focus on feasibility studies aimed at better understanding extraction technologies and process economics, assessing the current critical materials resource base, and researching and developing innovative extraction methods. Find more specific project information on the low-temperature mineral extraction selections here.

The Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) accelerates development and deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. EERE funds more than 150 geothermal energy projects in research, development, demonstration, and analysis. Follow our progress with the 2013 Peer Review Report, or view program achievements in the 2013 Annual Report.

DOE Addresses Optimizing Water Use in Geothermal Applications
Via DOE–Three key reports from the Energy Department address water impacts in geothermal energy production. Two recently issued studies, produced by Argonne National Laboratory for the Department’s Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO), highlight methods for economizing water use in geothermal applications. These reports complement a Department-wide report released in June that assesses water usage in multiple energy applications, including geothermal.

Geothermal Water Use: Life Cycle Water Consumption, Water Resource Assessment, and Water Policy Framework, now available through the Energy Department’s Geothermal Data Repository, projects geothermal water demand over the next 20-30 years. The incremental increases from geothermal development in its current trajectory will likely be manageable in most basins, according to this study by Argonne National Laboratory. As EGS advancements lead to more commercial pathways and the resource base becomes more fully exploited, water conflicts could be mitigated with technological improvements that help minimize belowground water losses and favor lower quality water sources such as brackish or saline groundwater.

Life Cycle Water Consumption and Water Resource Assessment for Utility-Scale Geothermal Systems, also available through the DOE Geothermal Data Repository is third in a series of reports by Argonne sponsored by the GTO. By evaluating the water requirements of four power plant scenarios, including flash and binary systems, this work highlights the importance of utilizing dry cooling systems for binary and EGS systems and minimizing fresh water consumption throughout the life cycle of geothermal power development. Methods focus specifically on (1) collection of data to improve estimation of EGS stimulation volumes, aboveground operational consumption for all geothermal technologies, and belowground operational consumption for EGS; and (2) the mapping of the geothermal and water resources of the western United States to assist in the identification of potential water challenges to geothermal growth.

The Department’s Water-Energy Tech Team report – The Water-Energy Nexus: Challenges and Opportunities – frames an integrated challenge and opportunity dialogue to address water use among energy technologies for the Department and its partners, laying the foundation for future efforts. Geothermal technologies are key among those described. Low- temperature and coproduced geothermal power, for example, are highlighted as a method to increase the productive use of waste heat.

Alternative Earth Resources Signs Agreement to Sell Project Assets to Ormat
Press Release (Vancouver, B.C.) August 6–Alternative Earth Resources Inc. (“AER”) (TSX.V: AER) is pleased to announce that it has signed a definitive Purchase and Sale Agreement (“PSA”) with Ormat Nevada Inc. (“Ormat”), whereby Ormat will purchase AER’s Crump Geyser (50% interest) and North Valley geothermal project assets, and obtain an option, exercisable over a four (4) year period, to purchase certain of AER’s New Truckhaven geothermal leases for cash payments totaling US$1,500,000. The sum of US$1,490,000 is to be paid on closing of the transaction, and a further $10,000 is payable if and when Ormat exercises the lease purchase option. The PSA replaces a letter agreement with Ormat dated June 3, 2014, which was disclosed in a news release dated June 11, 2014.

AER has received a US $50,000 non-refundable deposit in respect of the PSA, and the transaction is subject to the approval of AER shareholders at a Special Meeting to be held on August 22, 2014, and the acceptance of the TSX Venture Exchange. The PSA, if approved, is expected to close on or about August 27, 2014.

AER had cash and cash equivalent assets of US$1.2 million as of March 31, 2014. If the approvals are obtained and the transaction closes, the benefits to accrue to AER include: an additional US$1,490,000 to the treasury; free up cash of US$175,000 that is currently pledged for geothermal well bonds; remove a liability for geothermal well abandonment costs of approximately US$450,000; and eliminate on-going geothermal lease payment obligations.

Enel Green Power Signs First Cooperative R&D Agreement in the U.S. for Stillwater Hybrid Plant
Press Release (Rome) August 4–Enel Green Power (EGP), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Idaho National Laboratory (INL), under the oversight of the U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) have signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the goal of exploring the potential of EGP’s innovative Stillwater hybrid power plant.

The 2 MW Stillwater Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Project is currently under construction in Fallon, Nevada and, upon completion, it will operate alongside the existing 33 MW Stillwater geothermal power plant, which is already paired with a 26 MW photovoltaic facility. This is the first hybrid plant in the world able to bring together at the same site the continuous generating capacity of binary-cycle, medium-enthalpy geothermal power with solar photovoltaic and solar thermodynamic.

Under the agreement, the integration of geothermal and CSP to generate power will be studied over the coming year. EGP, NREL, INL and the GTO will work together to model the combination of geothermal and CSP systems, validating simulated results with real-world data from the Stillwater facility. The fruits of this work will be used to explore and quantify the potential benefits of different operating strategies and integration schemes, with the goal of opening doors for the development of future hybrid renewable energy facilities.

Construction at the Stillwater CSP plant began in April 2014, and is expected to be completed within the third quarter of this year. The concentrating solar panels field extends over 21 acres of property, just adjacent to the geothermal and photovoltaic plants.

“The CSP addition at Stillwater represents an exciting leap forward for renewables” stated Francesco Venturini, Enel Green Power CEO “This project is an important example of how our team in cooperation with outstanding partners, such as NREL and INL, can develop and deploy innovative projects, whose advanced solutions will have far-reaching applications for our portfolio and for the whole renewable energy industry.”

Innovation is a key component of EGP growth strategy and it is focused on enhancing plant performance, employing new technologies, as well as integrating renewable energy in human settlements.

Pagosa Verde Hosts Symposium
GEA member Pagosa Verde LLC will hold its 3rd annual Pagosa Verde Symposium in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, August 21-22, 2014. “Presentations will range from global to local perspectives on direct-use and distributed power production including cascaded use of geothermal heat and the integration of renewable energy resources to maximize local potential,” according to the company.

U.S. Geothermal Inc. to Discuss First Quarter 2014 Earnings Results
Press Release (BOISE, IDAHO) August 6–U.S. Geothermal Inc. (NYSE MKT: HTM )(TSX: GTH ) plans to release its First Quarter financial results on Thursday, August 14, 2014 after the market close. Management will present the results during a telephone conference call for investors and analysts on Friday, August 15 th at 11:00 a.m. ET (9:00 a.m. MT). The conference call may be accessed by dialing (877) 407-8133 in the United States and Canada, or (201) 689-8040 internationally. A simultaneous webcast of the conference call will be provided through: http://www.investorcalendar.com/IC/CEPage.asp?ID=173074

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