International Geothermal Showcase To Feature Premier Speakers, Clean Power Plan and Senate Energy Bill Stalled, Global Geothermal Development Ramps Up


Ormat’s new geothermal plant will be located in the Honduras.

Photo Credit: Maxid, Flickr

In this post:
*SCOTUS Ruling Blocks Obama’s Clean Power Plan
*Senate Energy Bill Set Aside Temporarily
*Department of Energy Releases New Budget for the Geothermal Technologies Office
*International Geothermal Showcase to Feature Sen. Dean Heller and IRENA Deputy Director-General Sakari Oksanen as Keynote Speakers
*California’s Recent Geothermal Workshop Presentations Now Available
*Tanzanian Government Issues Geothermal Power Uptake
*Salton Sea Update: Geothermal Could Play a Large Role in Restoration
*European Companies Competing for Geothermal Innovation Award
*EU-backed DESCRAMBLE Project May Enhance European Geothermal Usage
*ThinkGeoEnergy Highlights Women in Geothermal (WING) in Exciting Interview
*Ormat Initiates Construction of 35 MW Platanares Geothermal Project in Honduras

Press Release: International Geothermal Showcase to Feature Sen. Dean Heller and IRENA Deputy Director-General Sakari Oksanen as Keynote Speakers

The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) is pleased to announce that Senator Dean Heller (R – Nevada) will be the keynote luncheon speaker at the 2016 International Geothermal Showcase on March 17th. Sen. Heller has been a leader on bi-partisan legislation to advance geothermal in the Senate. His efforts underscore his state’s geothermal potential, with Nevada second only to California in generation capacity. He currently serves on the Committee on Finance; Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee; Committee on Veterans’ Affairs; the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee; and the Special Committee on Aging.

The Showcase will also feature Sakari Oksanen, the International Renewable Energy Agency’s Deputy Director-General, as its opening keynote speaker. IRENA launched the Global geothermal Alliance at COP-21 which aspires to achieve a 500 per cent increase in global installed capacity for geothermal power generation and a 200 per cent increase in geothermal heating by 2030.

The Showcase is shaping up to be an exciting event with global participation. To date, representatives from 35 countries with geothermal interests will be in attendance, ranging from the island nation of Vanuatu to a country famous for its African Rift geothermal plants: Kenya.

For more information including registration, 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

SCOTUS Ruling Blocks Obama’s Clean Power Plan

In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court blocked Obama’s game-changing climate rule for power plants, a major hindrance to what may be the capstone environmental policy of the president’s time in office. On Jan. 9, the Court released an order issuing a stay on the EPA’s program to cut carbon emissions from power plants, giving industry and state lawsuits time to advance. The Court said the rule would remain in place until the circuit court reviews it and all Supreme Court appeals are exhausted.

The Clean Power Plan is the cornerstone of Obama’s climate change agenda: it’s structured to reduce carbon emissions from electricity producers by 32 % over 2005 levels by 2030 via assigning states personalized reduction targets tailored to their regional energy mix.

In a recent statement, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that the Obama administration disagrees with the order, but “remain[s] confident that we will prevail” during debates over the rule’s merits.

A senior administration official doubted the effectiveness of the stay at killing Obama’s Clean Power Plan, labeling it “a temporary procedural determination that does nothing to affect first our confidence in the legal soundness of this rule.” Another official stated the White House was “very surprised” by the decision, but retains “complete confidence that the rule is lawful.”

The circuit court plans to hear debates on the Clean Power Plan ruling in June, meaning the Supreme Court most likely won’t hear or rule on the regulation until after Obama’s term ends. The decision results in the EPA being unable to enforce the rule until the litigation facing it is overcome. The ruling also demonstrates that the court believes that the stakeholders suing the EPA are likely to win their case when the Clean Power Plan’s merits are considered.

A 26 state coalition, headed by West Virginia, requested the stay as a piece in a legal strategy against the regulation in federal court. The coalition believes the rule would hurt them in several serious, irreversible ways during the litigation process.
“If this court does not enter a stay, the plan will continue to unlawfully impose massive and irreparable harms upon the sovereign states, as well as irreversible changes in the energy markets,” the coalition wrote to the Supreme Court in January. Various business groups with energy interests joined forces with the coalition to request the stay.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the focal court hearing the states’ challenge, did not agree to block the rule last month, declaring the litigants did not meet the strict requirements for such an unprecedented action. That ruling urged the coalition to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In opposition to the coalition, the EPA deemed the rule on sound legal footing, saying it had the power to regulate power plant carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act. “The plan is fully consistent with the Clean Air Act, and relies on the same time-tested state-federal partnership that, since 1970, has reduced harmful air pollution by 70 percent, while the U.S. economy has tripled,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy wrote in October. Despite the EPA’s opinion, a large group of stakeholders sued against the Clean Power Plan, claiming the EPA overstepped its legal boundaries.

When the circuit court denied state and industry stay requests in January, it encouraged the litigants in question to take the uncommon step of requesting that the Supreme Court block the rule while litigation went forward.

Opponents of the rule were invigorated by the justice’s decision. “We are thrilled that the Supreme Court realized the rule’s immediate impact and froze its implementation, protecting workers and saving countless dollars as our fight against its legality continues,” said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who’s leading the opponent coalition of the Clean Power Plan.


Senate Energy Bill Set Aside Temporarily

The Senate recently voted to close debate on the senate energy bill spearheaded by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R – Alaska), which requires 60 votes. The bill will be set aside temporarily, as it failed to receive enough votes. Energy efficiency, alternative energy funding and weatherization are main focuses of the bill, but it is stalling as legislators debate how to handle the Flint water crisis. Senators Murkowski and Maria Cantwell (D – Washington) issued a statement on the status of their jointly authored energy bill:

“We have worked throughout the weekend to try to clear a path for our broad, bipartisan energy bill, which will help grow our economy, bolster our security, and protect the environment.

“We have spoken with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to remind them of the many good provisions in our bill. And we have gauged what might be possible to help the people of Flint, Michigan and other Americans impacted by contaminated drinking water.
“With our time on the Senate floor running short, we are working toward an agreement to allow our energy bill to move forward. At the same time, we are working to help advance a measure to address the Flint water crisis and hope that it will be brought up as soon as possible.”


Department of Energy Releases New Budget for the Geothermal Technologies Office

The DOE recently released its budget for the 2017 fiscal year, proposing a raise in funding for the Geothermal Technologies Office from the current $71 million level to $99.5 million, an increase of approximately $30 million. Below is a statement of the investments in geothermal the DOE hopes to make:

“The Geothermal Technologies Program will pursue the following major activities in FY 2017:

* Continue full implementation of the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) to advance the field operations at the FORGE site. The FY 2017 Budget Request will support the commencement of drilling, continuation of site characterization, and advancement of a competitive solicitation for testing EGS and high temperature tools and techniques at the site.

* Accelerate validation of geothermal Play Fairway Analysis (PFA), which is a methodology for the assessment of exploration success probability and the potential for finding new resources on a regional scale, using analysis and integration of diverse geologic datasets. The objective is to quantify the prospective areas for new geothermal exploration and development. The FY 2017 Budget Request will advance resource validation through the drilling of select and specifically located wells in high-potential “blind” geothermal resource areas identified from Phase 1 in FY 2015 and Phase 2 in FY 2016.

* Conduct feasibility studies of low-temperature deep-well geothermal systems coupled with advanced direct use applications and cascaded surface technologies, whose applications extend the reach of geothermal beyond the western U.S. The FY 2017 Budget Request will support identification of potential sites and assess these new geothermal resource opportunities. Additionally, R&D of thermal desalination technologies will continue in collaboration with the AMO Desalination Hub.

* Advance the Subsurface Technology and Engineering RD&D (Subsurface) Crosscut in coordination with other Department of Energy (DOE) offices including the Office of Fossil Energy, Office of Nuclear Energy, Office of Environmental Management, and the Office of Science. The Geothermal Technologies Program will fund innovative research and development (R&D) in four key areas – Wellbore Integrity, Subsurface Stress and Induced Seismicity, Permeability Manipulation and New Subsurface Signals – to reduce the cost and risk of geothermal exploration and development. In addition, funding will target a grand challenge R&D topic identified in an FY 2015 Subsurface workshop on “Advanced imaging of geophysical and geochemical signals in the subsurface,” which was coordinated with the Office of Science. In FY 2016, the Geothermal Technologies Program will work with DOE partners in the Subsurface Crosscut and with stakeholders to define an ambitious goal with quantifiable metrics and outyear targets to measure progress toward mastery of the subsurface.”

To read the budget proposal in full as it pertains to geothermal, follow the link below and begin at page 171:

California’s Recent Geothermal Workshop Presentations Now Available

Recently uploaded to the California Energy Commission’s website are the presentations given at the January workshop for “Identifying Research Priorities on Flexibility and Other Operational Needs for Existing Geothermal Power Plants.” Several GEA members participated alongside Geothermal Resource Council representatives in what was a constructive workshop.

Presentations are available here:

An overview of the workshop is available here:

Tanzanian Government Issues Geothermal Power Uptake

Recently, Prof. Sospeter Muhongo, Tanzania’s Minister of Energy and Minerals, issued directions for the Tanzania Geothermal Development Company (TGDC) to begin drilling three holes in the area of Lake Ngozi by June 2016, comprising the initial step in the construction of plants to produce geothermal power.

“We cannot continue waiting due to the elevated shortage of power the country experiences while Tanzania is among countries whereby the Rift Valley coverers huge area compared to other countries within a region,” Muhongo said. He explained that past field research had verified that the water temperature is immense, between 230 and 250 degrees Celsius – suitable for electricity generation. This would unlock a new, baseload source of renewable energy.

Muhongo encouraged TGDC to continue significant developmental research in other areas that have geothermal potential with similar indicators to Lake Ngozi, including the Mbaka area in the Rungwe district.

Muhongo said that to date three foreign companies like Symbion Tanzania have disokated interest in investing in the country’s geothermal potential in collaboration with the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC). “We invite other potential investors to chip-in and invest in this area which has proved to produce reliable and sustainable power,” Muhongo stated.

Muhongo observed that countries like Kenya and Ethiopia had achieved high levels of progress in the development of their geothermal resources. “But in our case we do not have even one megawatt from this source, which is unacceptable to our citizens,” he stated.

“The government will help to facilitate TGDC to access fund[s] for implementation for this project and the remaining job is to make sure work is to begin to generate geothermal electricity in Tanzania starting with[the] Lake Ngozi project,” Muhongo said.
According to TGDC’s General Manager Boniface Njombe, his country has to date identified 50 potential areas across Tanzania from where 5,000 MW of geothermal power can be brought online. In Njombe’s opinion, such areas must be explored through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement to alow the country produce 200 MW from geothermal by 2020. “As government, we want to effectively utilize all potential sources of power available in the country and geo-thermal is one of them,” Njombe said.


Salton Sea Update: Geothermal Could Play a Large Role in Restoration

With a drying lakebed and saline waters, California’s Salton Sea is disappearing. Stakeholders committed to restoring the lake envision a smaller version lasting into perpetuity, its maintenance funded by economic developments like regional geothermal, according to officials attending a conference at the UC Riverside.

“It’s not popular with residents in the area (of the Salton Sea), but it won’t be brought back to the way it was in the 1950s, 1960s and even the 1970s,” said Bruce Wilcox, secretary for Salton Sea Policy at the California Department of Natural Resources. Currently, the Salton Sea spans approximately 378 square miles, dwarfing other California lakes.

California Governor Jerry Brown recently proposed a budget containing $80.5 million earmarked for the Salton Sea. After decades of political lagging, Wilcox calls the government’s new restoration commitment a “great awakening.” Though the proposed funding for the Salton Sea “gets us started,” it is not enough to provide a permanent fix to the lake’s problems, Wilcox said. Instead, the economic development of the geothermal potential of the sea could help, conference speakers said.


European Companies Competing for Geothermal Innovation Award

A total of five companies from Italy and Germany have been nominated for the European Geothermal Innovation Award this year. The winner will be announced on February 25 near the end of the month. The competitors include Exergy SpA and their two-pressure-level cycle on a single-disk turbine located in the Denizli Tosunlar plant. The other Italian group in the running is Turboden Srl, which developed an innovative ORC technology to ramp down output on demand alongside a new smart grid technology.

Three German firms are also nominated. Fangmann Energy Services GmbH & Co KG was chosen for novel stimulation with acids in addition to related accessory developments like spacer, cement, and fiberglass casing. GeoKOAX GmbH is also included due to its geoKOAX heat exchanger, which is a larger diameter borehole heat exchanger (BHE) with high fluid volume. Jaske & Wolf Verfahrenstechnik GmbH’s selection is based on the use of water from drawdown wells in deep open-pit mining for a small district heating system in Bergheim, Germany.

Nominations are ranked according to innovation, reliability, reduction of emissions, and gains in energy output. “This year, the quality of nominations was again high, and virtually no entry was below the threshold to be considered as endorsed nomination,” said president of the European Geothermal Energy Council Burkhard Sanner. “I was somewhat surprised to see that the five companies making it on the list are from two countries only, Germany and Italy.”


EU-backed DESCRAMBLE Project May Enhance European Geothermal Usage

Innovative breakthrough technologies funded by the EU-backed DESCRAMBLE project may very well allow geothermal resources to be harnessed on the continent more effectively and in areas that were previously thought unsuited for such development. Developing and refining existing technologies to drill for and extract supercritical water is DESCRAMBLE’s end game.

Supercritical water is a valuable resource, containing up to 10 times more energy than water or steam. Guaranteed access to supercritical water means geothermal plants could reduce the number of wells needed per unit of electrical production, resulting in cost savings and a boost in the industry’s competitiveness. The ability to drill deeper would expand geothermal’s range, allowing other locations to construct their own geothermal plants. DESCRAMBLE will also design models that allow companies to predict the behavior of supercritical water as it is transported to the surface via wells.

By the project’s end in May 2018, DESCRAMBLE’s researchers intend to test the experimental technologies at a geothermal well at Larderello in Italy’s Tuscany region. In the past, the well was drilled to a depth of 2.2 km. DESCRAMBLE will try to extend it to between 3 to 3.5 km below the Earth’s surface. The team’s goal is to show that geothermal plants can operate with water extracted at pressure and heat levels never before seen. The geothermal industry aims to push deeper, into areas where pressure reaches over 218 times air pressure at the surface and temperatures hit 374°C, the sweet spot for supercritical water, a form that possesses aspects of both liquid and steam.


ThinkGeoEnergy Highlights Women in Geothermal (WING) in Exciting Interview

Women in Geothermal (WING) was recently featured on ThinkGeoEnergy, which highlighted the group as a promising surge of women involved in the geothermal industry. In an interview with Andrea Blair of WING and GNS Science, ThinkGeoEnergy touched upon important topics pertaining to women working in or interested in geothermal.

With its first meeting held in Las Vegas in 2013, WING has grown as an outlet for fellow women to support, promote, and advance what is unfortunately a minority group in the industry, with a lack of representation in the upper levels of geothermal companies and unequal pay. In order to solve these issues, WING hosts networking events, awards ceremonies, and runs mentoring programs to create a stronger female presence in the industry.

To learn more about WING and read the transcript of Andrea Blair’s interview, follow the link below:


Ormat Initiates Construction of 35 MW Platanares Geothermal Project in Honduras

GEA member Ormat recently announced the initial construction of its 35 MW Platanares geothermal plant in Honduras. The plant is slated to come online by the end of 2017 and produce an annual revenue of approximately $33 million. The Platanares plant will distribute its power for the most part under 30-year power purchase agreements with Honduran national utility ENEE.

“We are pleased to announce this progress in our development pipeline,” noted Isaac Angel, Chief Executive Officer. “Following a prudent process of field assessment and development, and in line with our continued focus on plant optimization, we were able to increase the projected capacity of the Platanares plant to 35 MW and improve the expected returns. Another component of our long-term strategic plan is continued geographic expansion and diversification, and this project facilitates that goal. The Platanares project will be the first geothermal project in Honduras and will further expand Ormat’s global presence”.

The Platanares project operates under and is governed by the Law to Promote the Generation of Electric Energy by Renewable Resources, which was previously enacted in 2007. Under the law in question, the Platanares plant may benefit from an income tax exemption over the course of the first 10 years of operation.


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