Leading news: Industry, Agencies Working Together for Geothermal

This post brings you the week’s “Top news for geothermal development and GEA members.” (Click here to view our benefits and to become a member of the Geothermal Energy Association).

The map below is shaded grey in the project areas for the geothermal teams that were chosen by the Department of Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Office to receive funding and support in the current “Play Fairway” award opportunity. Find more information on this DOE geothermal program inside this post.

Visual: via U.S. DOE

Click below to keep reading “This week’s top news for geothermal development and GEA members,” including more coverage from last week’s National Geothermal Summit; PTC/ITC guidance; federal agencies and their efforts to help understand the subsurface of the Earth; and the East Africa Geothermal Partnership’s new Senior Program Coordinator.

*Geothermal Industry Asserts Technology as Beneficial and Affordable

*IRS Issues Further PTC, ITC Guidance

*DOE’s Funding Awards Show Cross-Section of Geothermal Innovations

*Agencies Hold Subsurface Technology Workshop

*Caity Johnson to Coordinate East Africa Geothermal Partnership

Geothermal Industry Asserts Technology as Beneficial and Affordable

Press Release (Reno, Nev.) August 12—Nearly 300 industry leaders gathered in Reno last week for the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) National Geothermal Summit. The leading forum for Western State policy discussions, the National Geothermal Summit brought together the industry for a dialogue with state and federal policy makers. 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 incentive perspectives; achieving the potential of the Salton Sea and Salton Sea Restoration Initiative; protecting the existing industry base; and regulatory matters including leasing, permitting, and sage grouse habitat considerations.

View our National Geothermal Summit exhibitors list at geo-energy.org.

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. Industry leaders participated in a press conference on the day of the event to point out the status and issues of geothermal development today. For audio of the press conference, please click here.

View our National Geothermal Summit exhibitors list at geo-energy.org

“Geothermal is a viable, affordable technology with large amounts of untapped resource, and we can provide clean energy to the West as well as jobs and economic growth,” said GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell. “Despite uncertainties in geothermal policies we’re still seeing a growing and innovating industry, but the next five years will be critical.”

The industry expressed concern over policy uncertainties, which continue to create barriers to growth, while calling for stable policies that will foster the developing technology. Besides extending tax credits, many leaders agreed that not much can be expected at a federal level. Instead, the focus was on states as the drivers for growth, with sustained growth expected in Nevada and California, and new projects in development in Utah, Oregon and Washington, among others.

Ormat Technologies was the Summit co-host. Bob Sullivan, Vice President of Business Development, Ormat Technologies, said the U.S. is in “a period of significant change in the electrical grid.” Sullivan called the technology a “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.”

View our National Geothermal Summit exhibitors list at geo-energy.org

Sullivan continued: “On top of that it’s a real economic job engine. Our investment significantly positively impacts the local communities that we build in, so it has a big economic footprint, and it creates more jobs than any other renewable technology out there. As a baseload technology, geothermal can back up intermittent resources with no carbon footprint at all.”

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. “We’re participating in this conference to see what Nevada can do to continue to be a national leader in geothermal development,” Thomsen said.

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 solar and wind power. “The Geothermal Energy Association is an international organization, and there’s a lot of activity particularly in Africa and other nations. But we’re beginning to see renewed interest in geothermal in California because of SB 1139, and Nevada because of SB 123. Both of those bills have generated a debate about what kind of renewables we need. For example, in California with the wind and solar resources, there’s a significant shortfall when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. The kind of projects Enel focuses on tend to mitigate that [through hybrid technologies],” Page noted.

View our National Geothermal Summit exhibitors list at geo-energy.org

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

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. “Geothermal’s [environmental] footprint is miniscule compared to other technologies. The attributes that geothermal provides really need to be promoted. We don’t have a huge footprint, we don’t have adverse visual concerns that other technologies see.”

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.”

The industry will reconvene for the world’s largest gathering of geothermal professionals at the GEA Geothermal Energy Expo 2014 in Portland, Oregon, from Sept. 28 through Oct. 1. For more information, visit http://www.geo-energy.org/new_expo/default.asp. For more information, to request press credentials, or to schedule an interview with a GEA representative, please contact Shawna McGregor, The Rosen Group, 917 971 7852 or shawna@rosengrouppr.com.

Read more about GEA’s National Geothermal Summit in the news:

“The long, hard slog to unlock the potential of geothermal energy,” by Katie Fehrenbacher (gigaom.com)

“Geothermal energy has success in Nevada, wants to spread to the rest of the west,” by Megan Geuss (arstechnica.com)

“Imperial County wants state to require use of more geothermal energy,” by Marc Lifsher (latimes.com)

“Renewable energy recipe: one part Earth, two parts sun,” by Yvonne Beasley (rgj.com)

View our National Geothermal Summit exhibitors list at geo-energy.org

IRS Issues Further PTC, ITC Guidance

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued new guidance for purposes of the renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) under Section 45 of the Internal Revenue Code and the energy investment tax credit (ITC) under Section 48 of the Internal Revenue Code. The new Notice 2014-46 clarifies two previous Notices.

IRS provides some examples of activities that can prove construction has begun on a facility, a requirement of tax credit qualification. For example, physical work on a custom-designed transformer, or construction on roads that are integral to the facility. “Assuming the work is of a significant nature, there is no fixed minimum amount of work or monetary or percentage threshold required to satisfy the physical work test” (see wsgr.com, PDF; and irs.gov, PDF).

For transfers, IRS clarifies that ownership of a fully or partially developed facility may be transferred without losing its qualification under the physical work test or the safe harbor for purposes of the PTC or the ITC. IRS also notes that if a taxpayer did not meet the safe harbor, but paid or incurred at least 3 percent of the total cost of a facility that is a single project comprised of multiple facilities before January 1, 2014, the safe harbor may be satisfied.

DOE’s Funding Awards Show Cross-Section of Geothermal Innovations

At the GEA’s National Geothermal Summit in Reno, Nevada last week, the DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Office Director Doug Hollett announced selections for FY14 funding opportunities from his office in three distinct categorical opportunities: Integrated EGS R&D, Play Fairway Analysis, and the Low-Temperature Mineral Recovery Program. The projects that DOE has chosen to support provide a cross-section of the innovative geothermal technologies being improved and assessed in the near term in order to best take advantage of the many various benefits unique to geothermal energy.

Rare Minerals May Increase Geothermal Site Values

The Geothermal Technologies Office announced nine awards for projects looking at the feasibility and development of extraction methods for a total of up to $4 million. Each project is expected to receive between $250,000 and $500,000. The awardees are: Southern Research Institute in Birmingham, AL; SRI International in Menlo Park, CA; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, CA; University of California – Davis in Citrus Heights, CA; Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, WA (PNNL receives awards for two separate projects in this category); Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA; Simbol Materials in Pleasanton, CA; and Tusaar Corporation in Lafayette, CO.

Geothermal brine has the potential to contain rare earths and valuable minerals that may be extracted for benefit of manufacturing. The GEA document Geothermal 101 (PDF) explains that mineral recovery is the practice of extracting minerals from water at conventional geothermal sites, reducing the environmental impacts of mining. Known minerals found in geothermal fluids include: silica in many forms, strontium, zinc, rubidium, lithium, potassium, magnesium, lead, manganese, copper, boron, silver, tungsten, gold, cesium, and barium. Different geothermal sites contain different suites of minerals.

Oil and Gas Tool Adapted for Geothermal “Play Fairway”

The Geothermal Technologies Office announced up to $4 million for eleven projects for the Play Fairway Analysis, a subsurface mapping technique already used for oil and gas exploration. The awards go to: Utah State University in Logan, UT; ATLAS Geosciences Inc. in Reno, NV; Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, NM; Cornell University in Ithaca, NY; Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources, Olympia, WA; University of Utah/EGI in Salt Lake City, UT (Univ. Utah receives awards for two separate projects in this category); University of California, Davis in Davis, CA; Ruby Mountain Inc. in Salt Lake City, UT; Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, University of Nevada, Reno in Reno, NV; and University of Hawaii in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Locating and quantifying geothermal energy resource potential requires understanding the subsurface geological features of a region. The “play fairway” tool is already used in the petroleum industry to incorporate factors of a basin and will be developed for geothermal projects at blind or previously unexplored sites. The importance of mapping subsurface qualities in making geothermal production viable was a large part of the discussion at GEA’s recent workshop with the State Department, “Best Practices for Geothermal Power Risk Reduction” (PDF).

R&D Progressing for Enhanced Geothermal Systems

Twelve collaborative projects were named to share up to $10 million for integrated Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) research and development. These awards will initially focus on laboratory feasibility studies, and integrated characterization methods and deployment are expected in later stages. The awardees are: University of Wisconsin-Madison in Madison, WI; The Pennsylvania State University in University Park, PA (Penn. State receives awards for two separate projects in this category); Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, CA (LBNL receives awards for two separate projects in this category); California State University Long Beach in Long Beach, CA; Cornell University in Ithaca, NY; The Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK; Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, NM; Array Information Technology in Greenbelt; MD; Board of Regents, NSHE, obo University of Nevada, Reno in Reno, NV; and Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM.

As explained in the GEA document Geothermal 101 (PDF), EGS refers to the creation of artificial conditions at a site where a reservoir has the potential to produce geothermal energy. A geothermal system requires heat, permeability, and water, so EGS techniques make up for reservoir deficiencies in any of these areas by enhancing existing fracture networks in rock, introducing water or another working fluid, or otherwise building on a geothermal reservoir.

Agencies Hold Subsurface Technology Workshop

On July 22, the United States Energy Association and the U.S. Department of Energy held an informational meeting titled Subsurface Technology and Engineering Challenges and R&D Opportunities: Control of Fracture Propagation and Fluid Flow.

As part of the meeting, Dr. S. Julio Friedmann, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Clean Coal and Carbon Management and Doug Hollett, Director, Geothermal Technologies Office talked about the DOE’s Subsurface Technology and Engineering (SubTER) Crosscut. Hollett continued the discussion at this month’s National Geothermal Summit, defining the SubTER Crosscut technical team’s pillars of intelligent wellbores; subsurface stress and induced seismicity; permeability; manipulation; and new subsurface signals (PDF).

John W. Pritchett, Leidos, Inc., who is on the Geothermal Energy Association Board of Directors spoke at the meeting as well. Pritchett discussed geophysical monitoring of subsurface electrical transient signals for fracture detection and characterization.

Caity Johnson to Coordinate East Africa Geothermal Partnership

caityAt this year’s National Geothermal Summit, the U.S.-East Africa Geothermal Partnership (EAGP) announced its new Senior Program Coordinator, Caity Johnson. Johnson has a BA in Environmental Studies and Planning from Sonoma State University and has worked within the geothermal industry since 2007. She first worked for ThermaSource, Inc. and has gone on to work for Capuano Engineering Company and EGS Consulting, Inc. Her numerous responsibilities have included procurement, travel and expense management, marketing, and international project and contract management. Johnson has developed a lasting network of geothermal professionals from around the world in her previous roles, and now prepares to take the reins at one of the industry’s prominent programs.

At EAGP, Johnson’s coordinating duties will include information exchange visits, private sector forums and workshops, and policy/technology cooperation exchanges, and other duties related to advancing geothermal energy development in East Africa and expanding business opportunities for U.S. geothermal companies. In particular, the program focuses on Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, and Djibouti. EAGP is sponsored by USAID and the Geothermal Energy Association and is implemented by USEA.

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