Leading news: Geothermal an International Answer for Climate Change

This post brings you news about climate change discussions, tax reform, news from GEA members, and more.


The maps above are colored showing the U.S. states that in 2014 had operational geothermal projects in blue and states with developing geothermal projects in green. The Geothermal Energy Association will release updated statistics for the geothermal industry in the U.S. as well as the international industry at the upcoming State of the Geothermal Industry Briefing on February 24 in Washington, DC.

Click below for this week’s leading geothermal news.

*2015 Kicks Off with Climate Change Discussion in SOTU and in Senate
*Hatch, Wyden Launch Bipartisan Finance Committee Tax Reform Working Groups
*Geothermal, Other Renewables Now Cheaper than Fossil Fuels Worldwide
*ElectraTherm: Fleet Runtime Exceeds 300,000 Hours
*Mannvit: Treatment Reinjects Gases at Hellisheidi Geothermal
*IRENA to Fund Geothermal in Iran and St. Vincent

2015 Kicks Off with Climate Change Discussion in SOTU and in Senate
In his State of the Union address this week, President Obama took a strong stance on climate change. He said:

“No challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change. 2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does — 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century. I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”

The Senate then voted on Wednesday “To express the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax.” This passed 98-1, with the only “No” vote coming from Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker.

But human activity, according to half of the Senate, is not the cause. A second vote that stated “climate change is real and human activity significantly contributes to climate change” was blocked in a 50-49 vote, falling short of the 60 that was needed for approval.

Despite the rhetoric, the same science shows electricity production to be the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions. Geothermal energy can be an emission-free and cost-effective option to produce electricity. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates global potential is around 200 GWe of geothermal power, with only a fraction of that total potential tapped.

The Geothermal Energy Association’s 2014 Annual U.S. & Global Geothermal Power Production Report (PDF) states, “Many countries anticipating the threats caused by climate change realize the values of geothermal power as a baseload and sometimes flexible source of renewable energy.” The 2015 report from GEA is underway and will be presented to attendees of the State of the Geothermal Industry Briefing on February 24 in Washington, DC.

Hatch, Wyden Launch Bipartisan Finance Committee Tax Reform Working Groups
Five Bipartisan Groups to Analyze Challenges of Tax Code, Develop Policy Recommendations for Comprehensive Tax Reform-–Press Release (WASHINGTON) January 15-–Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today announced the launch of five separate bipartisan Finance Committee Tax Working Groups to spur congressional comprehensive tax reform efforts in the 114th Congress.

The groups will analyze current tax law and examine policy trade-offs and available reform options within the group’s designated topic areas. Each group will be co-chaired by one Republican and one Democrat member.

Policy focus areas for the working groups include: 1) Individual Income Tax; 2) Business Income Tax; 3) Savings & Investment; 4) International Tax; and 5) Community Development & Infrastructure.

Each of the bipartisan groups will work directly with the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) to produce an in-depth analysis of options and potential legislative solutions within its assigned area, with the goal of having one final comprehensive report featuring recommendations from each of the five categories completed by the end of May. The report recommendations, which will be delivered to Chairman Hatch and Ranking Member Wyden, will serve as a foundation for the development of bipartisan tax reform legislation.

“Republicans and Democrats agree the American tax system is too complicated, unfair, and is hurting economic growth,” said Hatch. “With the launch of these working groups, members will have an opportunity to thoroughly examine the code and put forward smart ideas that will help lay the groundwork for a bipartisan tax overhaul that will provide bigger paychecks, better jobs, and more opportunity for all Americans. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we take on this challenge during the 114th Congress.”

“We can all agree that that our broken tax code must be fixed in a way that makes it work for, not against, our country and economy. We need a simple and fair system that helps both typical Americans and business alike,” said Wyden. “A lot of hard work has been done in recent years on tax reform creating a strong foundation to build upon. We now have a window of opportunity to make a run at modernizing our tax code and it’s time to come together and deliver. It’s going to involve a lot of hard work and compromise and I’m hopeful this bipartisan effort will move us in that direction.”

The five working groups and their co-chairs are: Individual Income Tax Co-Chairs are Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) & Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.); Business Income Tax Co-Chairs are Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) & Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.); Savings & Investment Co-Chairs are Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) & Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio); International Tax Co-Chairs are Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) & Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.); and Community Development & Infrastructure Co-Chairs are Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.) & Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).

Geothermal, Other Renewables Now Cheaper than Fossil Fuels Worldwide
A report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), “Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2014,” concludes that biomass, hydropower, geothermal and onshore wind are all competitive with or cheaper than coal, oil and gas-fired power stations, even without financial support and despite falling oil prices, says a press release from the agency.

“Renewable energy projects across the globe are now matching or outperforming fossil fuels, particularly when accounting for externalities like local pollution, environmental damage and ill health,” said Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General of IRENA. “The game has changed; the plummeting price of renewables is creating a historic opportunity to build a clean, sustainable energy system and avert catastrophic climate change in an affordable way.”

ElectraTherm: Fleet Runtime Exceeds 300,000 Hours
Fuel-Free, Emission-Free Power Generated from Low Temperature Waste Heat–-Press Release (Reno, Nevada) January 20–-ElectraTherm, a leader in distributed, waste heat to power generation, surpassed 300,000 hours runtime on its installed fleet. ElectraTherm’s power generation fleet spans the globe with 44 commissioned units, across nine different market segments focused on creating clean energy from varying and abundant waste heat streams. In addition to generating fuel-free, emission-free power, ElectraTherm’s Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) generator can also serve as a cooling device and eliminate radiator capital costs, offsetting up to 30% of the entire ORC project costs. Applications range from internal combustion engines, to combined heat and power, to low-temperature geothermal, biomass, solar thermal and more.

The 300,000 hour mark is just one of several milestones over the past year. In 2014, ElectraTherm announced three machine sizes with power outputs up to 35kWe, 65kWe and 110kWe. Various configurations are also available on each machine, from stand-alone to fully-packaged, turnkey solutions.

Other 2014 milestones include the installation of 10 machines on a district heating system in Slovakia. ElectraTherm completed installations on other applications in 2014, such as natural gas compression, biomass and an incinerator, to name a few. ElectraTherm also developed a video with site photos and a description of how ORC technology works.

ElectraTherm’s ORC generates fuel-free, emission-free power from waste heat through ORC and proprietary technologies. Hot water enters the machine where it heats a working fluid into pressurized vapor. As the vapor expands, it drives ElectraTherm’s patented twin screw power block, which spins an electric generator and produces up to 110kWe.

ElectraTherm’s ORC generators utilize low temperature waste heat (>77°C/170°F), and is the most widely deployed ORC technology operating at such low temperatures. ElectraTherm’s machine can be used to displace site electrical loads and offset costs, and the added cooling effect leads to more throughput and more revenue. Visit our Website to learn more.

Mannvit: Treatment Reinjects Gases at Hellisheidi Geothermal
Press Release, January 12–Orka náttúrunnar (ON) has taken over the management and operation of an exhaust treatment plant at the Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant (GPP). The treatment plant treats non-condensable gases (NGC) in the power plant exhaust. The treatment plant separates hydrogen sulphide (H2S) and carbon dioxide (CO2) from the exhaust and re-injects the gases deep into the bedrock at the plant site. The facility is expected to treat up-to one third of the hydrogen sulphide (H2S) emissions from the plant.

Geoscientists at ON have managed the project, whereas Mannvit has lead the design and the commissioning of the exhaust treatment plant. Mannvit supervised and coordinated the design as well as the supervision of the construction and the installation. Tasks included the design of a simulation model in which the functionality of the process design was verified, co-ordination and scoping of the individual parts of the terminal, and specification of components. Process design (P & ID) and design of the absorption column, which separates the gases in the exhaust was handled by Mannvit as well as the the steel piping design and layout of equipment.

Operation of the NGC Treatment Plant: Operational testing of the exhaust treatment plant began in the spring of 2014 and the re-injection of the hydrogen sulphide was started at the same time. Alignment of the exhaust treatment plant to the geothermal plant’s operation that was started in the second part of 2014 is now completed. The exhaust treatment plant is based on development and pilot projects based on scientific research at the Hellisheidi GPP going back to 2007. In the treatment plant, hydrogen sulphide and some carbon dioxide are separated from the non-condensable geothermal gases consisting mainly of three gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrogen sulphide (H2S) and hydrogen (H2). Up to 98% of the hydrogen sulphide treated and about 50% of the carbon dioxide are dissolved in condensate from the power plant and re-injected one to two thousand meters down into the lava bedrock. Calculations show that about 1,000 tonnes of hydrogen sulphide have been re-injected into the strata since the operational testing began. According to ON & Reykjavik Energy’s project plan, the exhaust treatment plant will be operated at full load for one year before reassessing the performance of this new method.

Carbon Capture Confirmed: CarbFix is an R&D project carried out by Orka náttúrunnar (ON) along with other partners. The project goal is to imitate the natural fixing process of carbon dioxide (CO2) already observed in basaltic rocks in Icelandic geothermal fields. Recent studies of the drilling cores from the bedrock at the injection area of the CarbFix project strongly suggests that the theories of scientists are valid. The carbon dioxide binds with the basaltic rocks and by using this method, this main greenhouse gas is stored as a mineral in the ground for the foreseeable future. Studies show that 85-90% of carbon dioxide is captured this way within a year of re-injection.

Next Demonstration Project: According to ON, the company is in the process of evaluating the construction of a steam stack close to the power plant, which would operate parallel to the exhaust treatment plant and the gas re-injection. Research on the meteorological conditions in the vicinity of the power plant indicates that the steam stack can ensure a better dispersion of emissions and thereby reduce atmospheric concentration of hydrogen sulfide, so that they will not exceed the regulatory atmospheric limits. The steam stack, along with related equipment, will be located at drilling platform #7, in the area above the steam separation unit #2 at the Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant. Gas that is not treated in the exhaust treatment plant will be directed through the steam stack. Trial operations of the steam stack are expected to start in the spring of 2015.

IRENA to Fund Geothermal in Iran and St. Vincent
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) have announced USD 57 million for five renewable energy projects in developing countries, including two geothermal energy projects. In Iran, a 5-MW geothermal project in Ardebil is receiving a loan of $6 million. The other geothermal recipient, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, is receiving a loan of $15 million for a 10- to 15 MW project.

“Renewable energy offers the prospect of clean, affordable power to the 1.3 billion people currently off the electricity grid,” IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin was quoted in press. “While renewable energy resources are abundant in many communities suffering from energy poverty, finance is still a key challenge for deployment. That is why the partnership between IRENA and ADFD is so important as a pioneering effort.”

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