Senate Considers Broad, Bipartisan Energy Bill, Success for Co-ops Using Geothermal, Caribbean Development Bank Predicts Renewable Future, Innovative Projects Abound

Senate Energy Bill

Sen. Murkowski Leads Debate of Broad, Bipartisan Energy Bill
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In this post:
*Sen. Murkowski Leads Senate Consideration of Broad, Bipartisan Energy Bill
*Geothermal Leaders to Convene in Washington DC for Showcase
*Caribbean Development Bank Foresees Geothermal Technology as Key to Cheaper Electricity
*Co-ops Increase Geothermal Energy Usage in Illinois
*Spanish Geothermal System to Grow Papayas
*Iceland GeoSurvey Receives $4.5 Million from EU for Innovative Geothermal Projects
*Kenya’s Geothermal Power Surge Set to Transform Market
*Development Bank of Latin America Highlights Region’s Geothermal Potential

Sen. Murkowski Leads Senate Consideration of Broad, Bipartisan Energy Bill

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today commenced debate on the Senate floor of S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016. During her remarks, Murkowski highlighted the benefits of this broad, bipartisan energy bill and the bipartisan process surrounding the bill.

Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, pointed out the geothermal provisions of the bill saying: “We agreed to promote geothermal energy – a key issue for Senator Wyden of Oregon and Senator Heller of Nevada.

She also noted  the limitations of what could be done: “And I would remind the Senate that we are considering S. 2012, not a House shell, so we will need to table all tax amendments – lest we wind up with a blue slip that prevents us from advancing to conference.”

The bill is being taken up in the Senate with an open amendment process, which could add to its complications.   Chairman Murkowski said, “I know that in many ways, an open amendment process on an energy bill will be like unkinking a hose. We know that dozens of members have hundreds of ideas for what this bill could include. And we are going to work as hard as we can to process as many of those ideas as possible.”

“It’s time to debate – and pass – an energy bill here in the Senate,” she concluded.

Following is a summary of the geothermal provisions in S.2012:

Subpart A-Geothermal Energy

Section 3005. National goals for production and site identification

Section 3005 provides a Sense of Congress for geothermal energy urging the Secretary of Interior to “significantly increase” geothermal production from federal lands, while asking the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to identify sites capable of producing 50,000 megawatts of geothermal power using the full range of available technologies, within 10 years.

Section 3006. Priority areas for development on Federal land

Section 3006 directs the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to identify high priority areas for geothermal development and to facilitate required leasing and development.

Section 3007. Facilitation of coproduction of geothermal energy on oil and gas leases

Section 3007 amends section 4(b) of the Geothermal Steam Act (GSA) of 1970 to allow geothermal development by co-production of electricity from oil and gas leases on federal lands using geothermal technologies.

Section 3008. Noncompetitive leasing of adjoining areas for development of geothermal resources

Section 3008 amends section 4(b) of the GSA 1970 to set up a noncompetitive leasing process where existing geothermal leaseholders on federal lands can move to lease adjoining lands administratively without rebidding. The amended section 4(b) sets the fair market value per acre that must be paid to gain such leases, sets minimum and maximum lease prices, lists the standards that must be met by leassees to gain lands, and limits the amount of land that can be acquired without competitive bids.

Section 3009. Large-scale geothermal energy

Section 3009 adds a new section 616A to EISA 2007 to authorize the Secretary of Energy to conduct additional types of research involving geothermal energy technologies [heat pumps and direct use]. The new section defines the specific types of research that may be conducted, details how entities can apply for grants to conduct demonstration projects, and authorizes research into the environmental impacts of such technologies.

Subpart B-Geothermal Exploration

Section 3012. Geothermal exploration test projects

Section 3012 adds a new section 30 to GSA 1970 to allow for the use of a categorical exclusion to NEPA to permit geothermal exploration test wells to be drilled. The new section limits when the exclusion can be in place by acreage and environmental impacts and requires complete restoration of any site within three years, allows the relevant Secretary to deny any exclusion based on “extraordinary circumstances” as defined by existing regulations, and includes review and public notice provisions.

Geothermal Leaders to Convene in Washington DC for Showcase

With demand for clean electricity on the rise, international attention has turned to geothermal energy with a highlight being the declaration of 38 countries forming the Global Geothermal Alliance at the Paris Climate Conference.  Building on this momentum, the Geothermal Energy Association’s (GEA) US and International Geothermal Showcase this March will highlight to Washington DC decision makers how leading geothermal nations are unlocking geothermal potential.

So far, in addition to participants from across the U.S., representatives from 25 countries have signed up for what is to be a prime geothermal gathering of 2016 — the U.K., Guatemala, Hungary, Turkey, Qatar, Djibouti, Peru, Uganda, Nairobi, Philippines, Fiji, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Burundi, Kenya, Mexico, Japan, Ethiopia, Nevis, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Italy.

“This event attracts a wide range of international participants and provides an excellent platform to highlight US technology and expertise in the geothermal energy space,” said Ann Robertson-Tait of GeothermEx, Inc.

The Showcase agenda has just been published, and is available at:  It displays a range of top level speakers addressing key topics, from financial opportunities to an overview of geothermal power’s status in the U.S. and abroad.  Other major topics include the future of the geothermal industry, cutting-edge technologies, and the components necessary to nurture global geothermal industry growth.

The GEA U.S. and International Geothermal Showcase will be this year’s premier event to network, collaborate, and discuss the hottest topics in geothermal  energy with high level representatives from the U.S. and abroad.  Speakers include leading company executives, government policy makers, market analysts, and public and private financial institutions.

“The GEA International Showcase is one of our most important geothermal industry events.  The event provides an opportunity to interact with international clients, government officials and the financial community,” said Mike Long of POWER Engineers, Inc.

The 2016 U.S. and International Geothermal Showcase is presented with support from leading companies and organizations. Co-sponsors include Power Engineers, Dewhurst Group and the Geothermal Resource Group.  Supporting organizations include the Geothermal Resource Council, American Council on Renewable Energy, US-ASEAN Business Council, US Trade and Development Agency, US Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Office, United States Energy Association, The World Bank, US Department of State, International Development Bank, US Agency for International Development, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

At the event, GEA will release its highly-anticipated, widely referenced “2016 Annual US and International Geothermal Power Production Report.” The Showcase program will highlight new geothermal projects, market trends, and government policies driving growth in the US and international markets. The last GEA International Showcase, held in 2014, involved over 250 industry leaders, government officials, and other power sector representatives from the U.S. and 26 countries spanning the globe.

For more information, confirmed speakers to date, and a tentative agenda, visit For questions regarding the 2016 Showcase or opportunities for sponsorships, please contact Rani Chatrath at To request press credentials, please contact Allie Nelson at

Caribbean Development Bank Foresees Geothermal Technology as Key to Cheaper Electricity

Warren Smith, the newly-elected president of the Caribbean Development Bank, predicts that geothermal technology will be a major game-changer in the region’s power market: “The trick,” Smith said, “is to take a regional approach.”

Electricity in the Caribbean is far more expensive than in the US, costing three to four times the price.  In addition, Caribbean markets are highly sensitive to the “vagaries of the international petroleum market,” Smith observed.  The boom-bust cycles characteristic of fossil fuels create instability and high risk situations for island nations limited by size constraints and isolation.

Fortunately, the region is a hotbed of volcanic activity, harboring high amounts of geothermal potential in the eastern Caribbean thanks to the superheated earth.  If geothermal plants were installed, the island nations could create a supply of stable baseload power independent of the weather.

But the exploratory drilling process is costly to islands with high geothermal potential but small populations like Nevis.  “If they only invest to produce enough for the 10,000 people [who live on the island], the unit cost of that electricity is going to be pretty high, because they’re not going to get economies of scale,” Smith said.

Smith is working to connect the development of important regional industries to the development of a regional energy market, utilizing undersea cable to conduct power from islands with geothermal potential to those in need of a cost-effective and stable power supply. If the Caribbean is able to lower the cost of energy, Smith noted, then that advantage could prompt the emergence of new industries, strengthening the resilience of small economies.

“You get stability in pricing, you reduce the importation of foreign oil and gas… and then you can also become an energy exporter. It’s a wonderful solution,” Smith stated.

The CDB partnered with the Inter-American Development Bank.  The CDB has undertaken raising funds from additional donors to give their plan momentum. But CDB’s plan will only be successful if a region, which has thus far been loosely integrated, can unite around a shared cooperative planning and development effort.


Co-ops Increase Geothermal Energy Usage in Illinois

Previous incentives for businesses serviced by state electric cooperatives to outfit geothermal energy systems have ceased, but the savings remain, cutting down energy costs due to the dozens of projects the incentives funded that will last into the future.
“The grants are the gift that keeps giving,” said Nancy McDonald, who works as marketing administrator at the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives.  McDonald’s association directed a $1.5 million, 12 year long GeoAlliance Program supported financially by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation.

Illinois electric co-ops used grants to help their members install a total of 51 geothermal projects across the state.  These projects generated approximately $700,000 aggregate annual savings.  These installations constituted a success for GeoAlliance, whose goal was to encourage the use of geothermal technologies in commercial installations.  Co-ops in turn publicized check presentations with media events.

“After each presentation, I would get a barrage of calls,” said McDonald. “That’s how I knew the program was making a difference. The grant program was instrumental in increasing the knowledge about the technology in Illinois.”

The commercial applications of geothermal installations are more complex than “more traditional residential installations,” stated McDonald. “And boards of not-for-profit organizations often needed convincing that although the geo systems cost more up front than fossil-fuel HVAC systems, the savings they’d realized would ultimately make them the best choice.”

One supported co-op, the Egyptian Electric Cooperative Association’s, grant to the Transportation Education Center at Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Marion was the third award from Egyptian to the university.

“The grant was a very important part of the decision to move forward with the geothermal system at the Transportation Education Center,” stated Justin Harrell, who works as a physical plant service engineer at SIU. He also said that the grant lowered the payback period by five years, approximately 20%.

Warm feelings abound among other grant recipients, too, said McDonald. “They continue to rave about their lower power bills and the improved comfort in their facilities. I know this good thing will continue long into the future.”


Spanish Geothermal System to Grow Papayas

Felix Sanjuan, a Spanish industrial engineer, wanted to stay occupied during retirement.  So, using the fields he had in Pedralba, he committed to growing fruit, having little agricultural experience but a curiosity that led to innovation.  Finding success with avocados, Sanjuan soon moved on to other tropical crops, seeking the advice of Thomas Faulí, an expert on such matters due to his work in Costa del Sol.

Faulí suggested Sanjuan cultivate papayas due to the fruit’s high levels of productivity and equally high European price.  Sanjuan, eager for a challenge, agreed.  Using his background in industrial engineering and thermodynamics to inventively grow papayas in order to avoid the plant’s death from the cold, Sanjuan decided to harness the heat of the earth to keep his crops warm year-round.

Utilizing a geothermal pipeline that conducts warm air into his greenhouse, Sanjuan intends to keep his papayas in prime growing condition despite the exterior weather.  Electric heaters powered by a solar battery system serve as a backup if Sanjuan needs to increase the temperature.

If successful, Sanjuan could be breaking into a lucrative market as, according to Faulí, the European Union consumes 40,000 tons of the exotic fruit annually, with the majority imported excluding 3,000 tons from the Canary Islands.  Under perfect conditions, one hectare could produce over $326,000 worth of papayas, all thanks to a unique spin on geothermal technology.


Iceland GeoSurvey Receives $4.5 Million from EU for Innovative Geothermal Projects

In 2015, Iceland GeoSurvey (ISOR) requested funding from the the EU Framework Program for Research and Innovation, HORIZON 2020, in the form of five research grants.  Whereas the usual approval for EU applications ranges from 15-30%, ISOR received funding for four projects and a passing mark for the fifth, with a very high acceptance rate of 80%.

ISOR’s projects in question cover enhanced geothermal systems, sustainable and nnovative designs for long-life, high-temperature geothermal wells, technology to stimulate wells that produced subpar results using traditional drilling, and feasible metal extraction and other valuable materials from geothermal byproducts.

The projects will commence in 2016 and are slated to yield results by 2019.  A wide range of participants from 31 European institutions, universities and energy and research organizations are involved, including Iceland’s own HS-Orka, Landsvirkjun and geothermal research group GEORG.  This is an opportunity for young specialists to gain experience in the geothermal field and the project involves graduate students as well.

To read more about the approved projects, follow the link below:


Kenya’s Geothermal Power Surge Set to Transform Market

Kenya contains between 7,000 to 10,000 MW of geothermal potential, centered in the African Rift Valley.  In a country where geothermal energy now contributes the majority of total power production, its geothermal market is predicted to expand significantly in the next 15 years.  The government alongside the private sector have invested significantly in Kenyan geothermal development, with the prime example in the Olkaria region.  The geothermal market is only growing stronger, with a myriad planned projects in development, supported by the private sector.

Kenya is already the eighth-largest geothermal producer in the world, and on the path it is following, will become one of the top African geothermal countries.  Geothermal steam power reduces Kenya’s energy constraints, provides an effective baseload source, and is cost competitive while reducing carbon emissions.  Due to this rich potential, Kenya’s government has set numerous ambitious targets like the generation of 5,530 MW of geothermal power by 2030, including a mid-term goal of producing 1887 MW by 2017, which is an increase from present levels of 579 MW.

Currently, the Kenya Electricity Generation Company (KenGen) which is 70% state-owned, has developed the majority of the Olkaria region.  In the initial stages, the Geothermal Development Company conducts exploratory work, and KenGen and other companies follow up after fields with high commercial potential have been identified.  With the government’s commitment to geothermal power, there will certainly be plentiful opportunities for KenGen and its sibling companies in coming years.


Development Bank of Latin America Highlights Region’s Geothermal Potential

In a newly published article, the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) discusses the large, untapped geothermal potential of their region.  At current estimates, Latin America is home to 15% of the world’s geothermal resources, with Mexico tipping the scales as one of the world’s highest geothermal capacity nations.  Within Latin America, each country approaches the development of geothermal energy in the region in different manners, with El Salvador and Costa Rica desiring to increase capacity mostly through the public sector, while Guatemala and Nicaragua plan on private sector development with public-private partnerships.

There is a pressing need to diversify energy generation as demand in the oil market falls.  One of the winners in the lower oil demand scenario could be the geothermal industry, stated Project Manager of the National Energy Board Juan Garcia .  A prime issue CAF experts in the Geothermal Congress of Central America and the Caribbean discussed was if governments will work with private companies to harness geothermal resources in Latin America on a large scale.

They highlighted three issues the Latin American geothermal industry faces: risk mitigation, the need to improve the investment climate, and difficulty attracting geothermal development experts.  Once these are overcome with the help of the public and private sector, Latin America’s vast geothermal resources can truly become operational.


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