Leading news: U.S. Could Be Moving Forward on Geothermal Energy

This post brings you updates on Senate action toward bipartisan energy legislation, including geothermal; California IID’s proposal to initiate 520 MW of geothermal in the next two years; the world’s first geothermal-biomass plant; and more.


The graph above showing the timeline of geothermal project risk has been shared on this site before, but not in a while. This week GEA staff shared it in an article clarifying main barriers to geothermal growth. “The main global barrier to geothermal power’s growth is not limited resources, or questions about heat, reliability, or sustainability,” the article explains. “The barrier is instead a question of risk. How can government agencies and private companies reduce upfront risk of geothermal exploration with technology and public policy so that new geothermal resources can be discovered and built into power plants? Many in government agencies, donor banks, and companies in the private sector are taking steps in the right direction to address these risks.” Read the full article at: http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Geothermal-Energy/What-Is-Really-Keeping-Geothermal-Power-Back.html.

Click below to read this week’s leading geothermal news and GEA member news.

*Senate Energy Bill Moving Forward — Would Help Achieve the Nation’s Geothermal Potential, Industry Leaders Say
*California’s IID Proposes to Initiate 520 MW of Geothermal by 2017; 1,700 MW by 2030
*Leading Businesses Pledge to Act on Climate Change, Including Berkshire Hathaway Energy
*Enel Green Power Brings Online World’s First Integrated Geothermal-Biomass Plant in Tuscany
*At Papal Conference, Gov. Brown Says Local Leaders Must Fight Climate Change
*IID Files Lawsuit Against CAISO for Anticompetitive Actions
*Atlas Copco Named Top Industrial Company in 2015 Newsweek Green Rankings

Senate Energy Bill Moving Forward — Would Help Achieve the Nation’s Geothermal Potential, Industry Leaders Say
Bipartisan energy legislation introduced in the Senate moved quickly to series of mark-ups July 28, 29 and 30 where a range of amendments were addressed. So far, the outlook was positive that the Committee would finish action quickly and report the bill to the full Senate for possible action in September. By Wednesday afternoon the committee had worked through 45 of the 94 amendments filed to the bipartisan legislation since the markup process began on Tuesday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alas., said in a release.

On July 23, Representatives of the U.S. geothermal industry applauded U.S. Sens. Murkowski along with Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., for introducing their broad, bipartisan energy bill. The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 “would help America achieve its geothermal potential,” commented Karl Gawell, Executive Director of the Geothermal Energy Association, “by addressing some of the most important barriers to geothermal development in the U.S.”

“The U.S. has world class geothermal resources waiting to be developed that can supply baseload renewable power,” said Terry Page, Director of Regulatory Affairs for Enel Green Power North America, owner and operator of three geothermal facilities throughout the U.S. including the 33-MW Stillwater geothermal site. “The policy changes contained in The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 would help remove some of the barriers to geothermal development and help spur new investment in an expanded U.S. geothermal industry.”

“The provisions in this bill will help reduce timelines in the geothermal development process and unlock new utility-scale projects, said Josh Nordquist, Director of Business Development for Ormat Nevada Inc. “We at Ormat Nevada Inc. commend Senators Murkowski and Cantwell for working with the industry on these cost-effective policy solutions.”

The legislation features five titles reflecting common ground on energy efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, and land conservation. In the supply title, it includes several provisions supporting geothermal energy. It would:

  • set a 50,000-MW National Geothermal Goal;
  • direct federal agencies to identify priority areas for development;
  • allow federal oil and gas lease holders to obtain a non-competitive geothermal lease to facilitate coproduction of geothermal power — today 25 billion barrels of hot water are produced annually from oil and gas wells within the United States;
  • facilitate new discoveries by allowing the limited non-competitive leasing of adjacent lands where a new discovery has been made; and
  • provide geothermal exploration test projects a limited categorical exclusion provided the lands involved present no extraordinary circumstances.

In a related event, on July 21st the Senate Finance Committee voted 23-3 in support of legislation sponsored by Sens. Hatch, R-Utah, and Wyden, D-Ore., to extend the expired Production Tax Credit for geothermal power plants that start construction by December 31, 2016. “The clean baseload geothermal energy produced as a result of these important measures will help the nation achieve a more diverse and reliable electricity supply, reduce emissions, grow state and local economies, and create jobs in both the oil and gas, and the renewable sectors,” said Gawell.

The Murkowski-Cantwell legislation builds upon legislative proposals introduced previously by Sens. Heller, R-Nev., Wyden, D-Ore., and Tester, D-Mont., along with several co-sponsors.

California’s IID Proposes to Initiate 520 MW of Geothermal by 2017; 1,700 MW by 2030

CalEnergy geothermal plants are viewed from the Red Hill Marina area at the Salton Sea. Photo via IID.

The Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors has released a draft vision document that sets the goal of 1,700 MW of new geothermal by 2030, and other specific actions that will support its Salton Sea Restoration and Renewable Energy Initiative. The initiative plans for habitat construction before geothermal development would be added as part of the final phase.

The document states, “Geothermal energy is especially important as California attempts to move to a carbon-free economy. It is estimated that moving water – primarily through the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project – consumes approximately 19 percent of California’s total energy use. This demand continues all day, year-round and so is ideally suited to a renewable source like geothermal energy, which can provide base load, while other renewable sources provide peaking power during summer afternoons or at other unpredictable times. The use of such renewable power – particularly if it substitutes for energy generated from coal – could be financed through the proceeds from the cap and trade program and/or by the sale of carbon credits directly.”

IID names short, medium and long-term goals for construction of renewable energy facilities and transmission: Approximately 500 MW of solar and other renewables and 520 MW of geothermal in the Short-Term (2016-2017); approximately 1,500 MW of solar and other renewables and 1,250 MW of geothermal in the Medium-Term (2018-2023); and finally, approximately 2,000 MW of solar and other renewables and 1,700 MW of geothermal would be in process with all completed by 2030.

The Salton Sea Restoration and Renewable Energy Initiative is IID and Imperial County’s plan for “ensuring water supply reliability for California, protecting public health, developing carbon-free energy, protecting and restoring the sea’s ecosystem and providing for economic growth,” according to a press release.

“IID and Imperial County believe that we must create and maintain a smaller but sustainable Salton Sea,” Bruce Wilcox, IID environmental and Salton Sea program manager said in the statement. “A reconfigured sea will limit fugitive dust emissions, preserve and create avian habitat and expand economic opportunity for one of California’s most economically distressed areas.”

“This solution will help to preserve the Quantification Settlement Agreement and related water transfers, which are critical to Southern California’s water supply reliability,” said IID board President Stephen Benson. “The time for studies has passed. Now is the time for real action. We urge the state of California to join us in implementing the plan proposed in this framework, and to begin immediately.”

An implementing agreement between the state, IID and the county is to be submitted to the State Water Resources Control Board in late 2015 for approval. View the document at www.iid.com/saltonsea. IID is taking comments.

Leading Businesses Pledge to Act on Climate Change, Including GEA Member Berkshire Hathaway Energy
This week executives from 13 major U.S. corporations, including GEA member Berkshire Hathaway Energy, joined with the White House in announcing the American Business Act on Climate Pledge. “We recognize that delaying action on climate change will be costly in economic and human terms, while accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy will produce multiple benefits with regard to sustainable economic growth, public health, resilience to natural disasters, and the health of the global environment,” states the Pledge.

Berkshire Hathaway Geothermal (CalEnergy) operates 10 geothermal generating plants in Southern California’s Imperial Valley and has been a long-time leader in geothermal innovation and ingenuity.

“Achieving worldwide greenhouse gas reductions starts at the local level – with individual states and individual power plants. At Berkshire Hathaway Energy, we’re proud of our roots as a 100% geothermal company and we’re going to continue to move forward to support a low-carbon, sustainable future,” said Jonathan Weisgall, Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s VP Legislative and Regulatory Affairs.

In total, the commitments in this Climate Pledge include over 1,600 MW of new renewable energy, additional renewables purchases for purposes such as data centers, and related goals like reducing water intensity. The companies are Apple, Google, Microsoft, Berkshire Hathaway, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, General Motors, Cargill, Alcoa, Wal-Mart Stores, United Parcel Service, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

The Pledge also applauds the growing number of countries that have already set ambitious targets for climate action and voices support toward a strong climate change agreement when the UN meets in Paris this year. The U.S. geothermal industry offers a multitude of environmental and economic benefits to the changing grid, and internationally, an April report by GEA showed the global geothermal industry had sustained a growth rate of 5% for the previous three years.

Here in the U.S., the industry has continued to identify its further potential and benefits while pressing for legal treatment on par with other energy sources. “There’s no question of the importance of geothermal as a renewable baseload generation source as California’s investor-owned and public utilities pull out of coal generation in order to meet Gov. Jerry Brown’s new 50% renewable goal,” said Weisgall, who also serves on the Geothermal Energy Association’s Board of Directors.

Enel Green Power Brings Online World’s First Integrated Geothermal-Biomass Plant in Tuscany
Press Release (Rome) July 27 — Enel Green Power has brought online the world’s first biomass plant used to heat geothermal steam at the Cornia 2 geothermal power plant, which is located in Castelnuovo Val di Cecina in Tuscany. The project will increase both the energy efficiency and the power output of the geothermal cycle.

The existing geothermal plant has been joined by a small power plant fuelled by virgin forest biomass sourced from within a radius of 70 km of the facility: using the biomass, the steam entering the power plant is heated from an initial temperature of between 150° and 160° Celsius to 370°-380° Celsius, increasing the net electricity generation capacity thanks to both the increased enthalpy of the steam and the improved efficiency of the cycle, the latter of which is due to lower moisture levels during generation.

“The integration of different technologies is a major step forward for the future of renewable energy,” said Enel Green Power CEO Francesco Venturini. “This plant, like our Stillwater facility in the United States, which combines the continuous generation capacity of medium-enthalpy, binary cycle geothermal technology with solar thermodynamic, and the Fontes Solar facility in Brazil, which integrates solar photovoltaic with wind while also using a stand-alone solar photovoltaic plant to reduce the consumption of Apiacas hydro plant construction site, will enable the optimisation of results and represents a replicable model that opens up new local energy, economic and employment opportunities.”

Enel Green Power invested more than 15 million euros in the project. The new plant is technologically innovative because it has close to zero impact on the environment, enhances an existing industrial plant and maintains the total renewability of both the resource and the cycle, combining two renewable resources in a system with potential for future international development.

The new 5 MW facility is expected to increase the geothermal plant’s output by more than 30 GWh per year while avoiding the annual emission of over 13,000 tonnes of CO2. There will also be a substantial impact on employment, with an additional 35 to 40 direct and indirect jobs in sourcing the local biomass being generated.

Other benefits include the efficient use of agricultural and agro-industrial by-products, the optimal maintenance of forest resources with the consequent reduction in hydrogeological risk, the sustainable development of energy crops and the production of significant levels of cogenerated heat.

At Papal Conference, Gov. Brown Says Local Leaders Must Fight Climate Change
Earlier this month, Pope Francis hosted a conference in which he urged the United Nations to step up its campaign against climate change. Gov. Jerry Brown of California attended the event and spoke to the conference, including 60 mayors from around the world, on the need for local leaders to address climate change. Brown and other local leaders signed a declaration stating that ”human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its effective control is a moral imperative for humanity.”

Gov. Brown was adamant on moving away from fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas, and he invited others to follow his example in California, which now derives 25% of its energy from renewable sources and plans to reach 50% in 15 years. “Climate change, because it is both local and global, it is a big existential threat that I can deal with as a governor,” Brown told press.

IID Files Lawsuit Against CAISO for Anticompetitive Actions

CalEnergy geothermal plants are viewed from the Red Hill Marina area at the Salton Sea. Photo via IID.

The Imperial Irrigation District, a GEA member with plans to develop new geothermal energy at the Salton Sea, has filed civil litigation in U.S. District Court, Southern District of California, against the California Independent System Operator Corp. (CAISO). IID describes the deliberate and systematic marginalization of IID, its ratepayers and all renewable energy generators seeking to develop projects in the district’s service area, and states that CAISO has exercised its monopoly power to manipulate deliverability.

IID Board President Stephen Benson said, “The renewable resources found in our region will go undeveloped if CAISO continues to manipulate the deliverability it assigns to IID. The Salton Sea Known Geothermal Resource Area itself possesses an estimated 1,700 megawatts of virtually emission free geothermal energy that could potentially replace energy lost at SONGS and future losses from once-through cooling power plants.”

He added, “Without immediate action, IID, its ratepayers and renewable energy generators looking to build projects in Imperial and Riverside counties will remain isolated from the rest of the state.”

A press release from IID further states:

“CAISO, which controls at least 80 percent of the state’s electric transmission system, has placed IID and its renewable energy generators at a competitive disadvantage in vying for power purchase agreements. The result, Kelley said, has been to saddle IID’s ratepayers with stranded transmission investment costs and handcuff economic development in both Imperial and Riverside counties.

“By using the concepts of resource adequacy and maximum import capability interchangeably, CAISO has blocked access to renewable energy projects interconnecting to IID’s transmission grid. The dispute between the agencies extends back to 2011, when CAISO approved IID’s upgrades to the Path 42 project that would send clean, renewable energy from Imperial and Riverside counties to the rest of California. IID subsequently expended nearly $35 million in completing its segment of the project.

“However, in the summer of 2014, CAISO used the loss of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station as a pretext for reducing future deliverability from IID into the CAISO system to zero, stranding the district’s investment in the Path 42 project and leaving it with no practical means of recovering its costs, other than to join the CAISO as a participating transmission owner.”

View the full complaint at www.iid.com/CAISOAction.

Atlas Copco Named Top Industrial Company in 2015 Newsweek Green Rankings
Press Release (Commerce City, Colorado) July 29 – [GEA Member] Atlas Copco, world-leading provider of sustainable productivity solutions, was listed as the top industrial company in this year’s Newsweek Green Rankings. The rankings look at corporate sustainability and environmental impact. Atlas Copco ranked 11th among 500 of the world’s largest publicly-traded companies accessed for the rating, and top in the industrial segment.

Newsweek teamed with research partners Corporate Knights Capital and HIP Investors Inc. to compare key performance indicators such as energy and water use, greenhouse gas emissions and waste recycling.

Atlas Copco continually exceeds in environmental responsibility. For instance, in 1994 Altas Copco Group pioneered the technology resulting in its variable speed compressors. Running compressors at only the speed required significantly reduces energy consumption. In 2013, Atlas Copco launched its patented VSD+ technology, cutting energy use by more than half compared with traditional compressors.

Earlier this year, Atlas Copco was also among those recognized by the United Nations at the agency’s major conference on climate change for the Atlas Copco’s goals to cut carbon dioxide from its products and operations.

The Newsweek Green Rankings also factor the company’s general sustainability. Atlas Copco had been recognized earlier this year as one of the world’s most sustainable companies in the annual Global 100 list.

To see the complete Newsweek Green Rankings list, visit http://www.newsweek.com/green-2015/top-green-companies-world-2015.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s