Geothermal “Greenhouse in the Snow”:
NPR Covers Russ Finch’s Climate-Defying Agriculture
Photo by Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media
In this post:
*International Geothermal Showcase Draws Closer
*GEA Supports Oregon Push for 50% Renewable Portfolio Standard
*New Mexico Bill Regarding Geothermal Regulations on Way to Governor’s Desk
*NPR Covers Nebraska’s “Greenhouse in the Snow”
*Geothermal Pricing Dispute Settled in Indonesia
*IF Technology and Climeon Collaborate to Produce Clean Power from Geothermal Heat
*NYC Council Encourages Geothermal Investments
*New Finnish Geothermal District Heating Project to Begin Drilling
International Geothermal Showcase Draws Closer
As GEA’s 2016 International Geothermal Showcase approaches, foreign attendees continue to roll in. To date, 35 countries will be represented from diverse locations, all with an interest in geothermal energy.
Senator Dean Heller (R – Nevada) will be the keynote luncheon speaker and the event will also feature Sakari Oksanen, the International Renewable Energy Agency’s Deputy Director-General, to deliver opening remarks.
With an exciting agenda, participants can anticipate speakers from countries who constitute the rising stars of the geothermal industry, including nations like Kenya, represented by KenGen’s CEO Albert Mugo, and Japan’s Hiroto Kamiishi, Director of the Energy and Mining Group at JICA. Countries attending run the gamut of continents from the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu to Qatar in the Middle East.
For more information including registration, confirmed speakers to date, and a tentative agenda, visit http://geo-energy.org/2016_International_Geothermal_Showcase.aspx. For questions regarding the 2016 Showcase or opportunities for sponsorships, please contact Rani Chatrath at Rani@geo-energy.org. To request press credentials, please contact Allie Nelson at Allie@geo-energy.org.
GEA Supports Oregon Push for 50% Renewable Portfolio Standard
A coalition of clean energy groups and Oregon utilities are promoting a platform to transition their state away from coal consumption towards renewable energy. Their plan, aptly titled Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan (HB 4036), showcases the future of the state’s progressive energy policy. To date, the Oregon House endorsed it with a strong 39-20 floor vote. The bill next faces the Senate.
Currently, Oregon’s legislature is making efforts to invest in renewable energy development with the introduction of bill HB 4036. HB 4036 would end customer payment for coal by 2030 while doubling renewable energy usage by 2040. In order to meet these goals, GEA believes geothermal technology can be a valuable addition to Oregon’s renewable energy mix.
GEA submitted a letter to the state’s Senate urging the governing body to consider implementing geothermal energy into their plans. GEA member companies Enel Green Power North America, Ormat Technologies, Inc., US Geothermal, Inc., Cyrq Energy, Inc., CalEnergy Generation and Terra-Gen, LLC also expressed their support for the legislation:
“The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) supports the Oregon legislature’s efforts to increase renewable energy development in the state. GEA would like to remind the state legislature of the values of geothermal power as a renewable energy source, express our full support for ending the state’s coal consumption, and expanding renewable generation to 50%. A 50% RPS will help expand clean energy technology in the state, provide green jobs and economic development, and earn tax revenues and royalties for state treasuries. Geothermal power provides the only renewable energy that can directly replace the loss of coal fired, base load generation, as well as flexible generation and ancillary services. A diversified renewable portfolio is critical when transforming a state’s generation infrastructure to primarily renewables, to prevent additional dependency on fossil fuels and a firm power solution to the state.”
“Geothermal is a proven, substantial, clean, economically beneficial, and environmentally friendly source of power. The United States Geological Survey estimates there are over 540 MW of identified geothermal power resources in Oregon and an additional 1,800 MW of undiscovered systems.1 These resources could generate approximately 12% of the state’s electricity consumption, or nearly 2.3 million homes, offsetting 6 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. In addition to conventional geothermal systems, Oregon contains a significant potential for Enhanced Geothermal Systems which are actively being researched and developed by industry with support from the U.S. Department of Energy.”
“Lastly, geothermal power brings a number of health benefits for Oregon’s residents by reducing emissions and helping Oregon to do its part to decrease the severity of climate change. Geothermal power is one of the cleanest forms of power and has one of the lowest land impacts of any energy technology. Geothermal power is capable of providing both firm and flexible power in addition to numerous ancillary services including load following, ramping, and reserve capabilities that help stabilize electricity grids that are under stress due to large low capacity factor generators.”
New Mexico Bill Regarding Geothermal Regulations on Way to Governor’s Desk
The proposed Geothermal Resources Development Act cleared New Mexico’s House and Senate and is on the way to Gov. Susana Martinez’s desk for approval. To read the proposed bill, committee reports, and final votes, follow the link below:
NPR Covers Nebraska’s “Greenhouse in the Snow”
What’s one to do when craving tropical fruit if they live in one of the coldest states in the U.S. where produce is out of season? After all, shipping from exotic locations is expensive. The answer to year-round local yields may lay in geothermal greenhouses. NPR recently explored “Citrus in the Snow,” the aptly titled phenomenon of growing what some might consider unusual fruits in cold climes during off-seasons, all through the heat of the Earth.
“It might actually, energy-wise, make more sense to ship from faraway distances, because we do have a lot of energy-efficient ways to ship, including trains, barges and such,” said Professor Dawn Thilmany, expert in agribusiness, of Colorado State University. But if one is able to eliminate carbon-rich heat sources, growing vegetables and fruits in greenhouses becomes feasible, stated Thilmany.
One geothermal greenhouse is located on the plains near Alliance. It contains a citrus grove with lemons, oranges, figs and even grapes. Russ Finch, the owner, envisioned the indoor garden: Greenhouse in the Snow. “Any type of plant we saw, we would put it in and see what it could do. We didn’t baby anything,” said Finch. “We just put it in and if it died, it died. But most everything really grows well. We can grow practically any tropical plant.”
Finch uses geothermal heat to keep the greenhouse warm on cold Nebraskan nights. “All we try to do is keep it above 28 degrees in the winter,” he explained. “We have no backup system for heat. The only heat source is the Earth’s heat, at 52 degrees at 8-foot deep.”
Finch’s Greenhouse in the Snow requires small amounts of energy, almost using no fossil fuels, with energy costs as low as $1 a day. According to Finch, energy pricing determines the fate of a greenhouse in regions of America with cold winters: “There have been hardly any successful 12-month greenhouses on the northern High Plains because of the weather… The cost of energy is too high for it. But by tapping into the Earth’s heat, we’ve been able to drastically reduce the cost.”
Finch cultivates several hundred pounds of fruit per year to vend at local farmers markets. However, the main focus of his business is advocating the design for his geothermal greenhouse and selling the model. Finch’s brand of greenhouse costs $22,000 to construct. According to Finch, seventeen have been installed across the U.S. and Canada, including one at a high school close by in Alliance that allows students to grow vegetables ready for their cafeteria.
In Finch’s opinion, nearby agriculture that includes renewables would improve the footprint of local food cultivated in a greenhouse as compared to the shipments of produce from as far away as Mexico. His Greenhouse in the Snow may just be the way of the future.
Geothermal Pricing Dispute Settled in Indonesia
Indonesian electricity firm PLN and geothermal firm Pertamina Geothermal Energy (PGE) have finally reached an agreement over a recent steam-pricing dispute between the two state-owned companies. The groups initialed agreements last Friday on several steam power plant initiatives like Sulawesi’s Lahendong project and the Kamojang project in West Java.
PLN and PGE okayed new steam price adjustments, for example placing the Lahendong power plant unit I at six cents per kWh with Kamojang plant unit I to III at the same rates. However, the Kamojang unit IV was priced higher at 9.4 cents per kWh. The resolution was the product of a lengthy dispute when PLN demanded the price not exceed 4 cents per kWh.
“I think this is a better figure for us. The geothermal developers can be more enthusiastic in developing geothermal energy from here on,” Irfan Zainuddin, PGE president director, remarked upon the agreement.
Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Sudirman Said considered the disagreement a danger for Indonesia’s effort to achieve its target goals on new and renewable energy development. In addition to the resolution of the PLN/PGE dispute, PLN agreed upon a deal with PT Supreme Energy on the Sumatran Muara Laboh project.
Supramu Santosa, PT Supreme Energy’s president director, hailed the agreements, which he said indicated the Indoneisian government’s commitment to boost the nation’s geothermal industry. According to Santosa, “The tariff adjustment is a kind of government accomodation of the uneconomical [energy] output,” with negotiations having progressed for over a year.
As geothermal energy carries a long-term and risky investment, a good tariff was important, Santosa remarked. “As long as the price is right, people will want to explore, as with oil. But the price should not just be determined by PLN, as the issues bears also on the government’s long-term energy sustainability plan.”
Indonesia is estimated to contain the world’s highest geothermal resources of up to 28,000 MW due to the island chain’s plentiful volcanoes. Still, much potential remains untapped with stalled development, due in part to low pricing and environmental issues, with total installed capacity at just 1,400 MW.
Geothermal development is viewed as costly, as it necessitates advanced technology to be successful. Due to these circumstances, developers must seek a fitting selling price to guarantee returns on their investment. Even with their high risk and high cost, clean, renewable projects like geothermal plants are considered necessary in the wake of COP-21.
As part of its long-term goals, Indonesia aims for 23% of its overall electricity output to be generated from renewable sources by 2025. Yunus Saifulhak, the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry director of geothermal energy stated that PLN’s move would likely encourage other industry players expand exploration operations of Indonesia’s potential geothermal spots. According to Yunus, thirteen developers were currently slated to explore geothermal options in the Pacific nation, an investment in Indonesia’s green future.
IF Technology and Climeon Collaborate to Produce Clean Power from Geothermal Heat
Climeon, a Swedish start-up, has joined forces with Dutch firm IF Technology to produce 100% clean electricity from geothermal heat in the Netherlands. The two companies have initialed an agreement to this effect that, as per the partnership, Climeon’s vacuum-enabled heat power system, Ocean, will be joined with IF Technology’s experience in implementing geothermal systems.
Climeon stated that Ocean possesses the ability to produce electricity from hot water far more efficiently than any other equipment on the market. Ready to order in five specialized models, Ocean is meant for land-based heat power applications like solar, geothermal, industrial waste-heat and power plant installations.
As the company said, geothermal energy is 100% renewable and does not emit greenhouse gases, with no visible impact on the landscape. Climeon and IF Technology are working with a variety of customers to integrate this innovative technology into their geothermal projects.
According to IF Technology director Martijn van Aarssen: “Climeon’s revolutionary and award winning Climeon Ocean solution makes electricity production possible and opens up new opportunities for generating clean power in the Netherlands.” The initial projects under the joint partnership will likely to be announced this year.
Thomas Öström, Climeon’s CEO, said: “With more than 25 years of experience working with geothermal projects, IF Technology is our perfect partner… In addition to this, the Netherlands with its strong governmental backing for clean energy projects, is perfect for expanding our market.”
NYC Council Encourages Geothermal Investments
Recently, the NYC Council voted to encourage geothermal installations in retrofit projects alongside new construction, serving as an example for other cities in the USA. The city council unanimously passed a bill that prompts the equipping of geothermal energy systems and requires geothermal heat pumps to be taken into account for all new construction and retrofits of city-owned buildings.
“This bill represents the first time in city history that the social cost of carbon will be considered as part of an environmental policy,” said Costa Constantinides, NYC councilman and the bill’s sponsor, per the Times Ledger. “Using geothermal technology in city-owned buildings will save us money, reduce our carbon footprint, and offer a road map for environmental leadership for the private sector to follow. The online screening tool will also provide an opportunity for informed private geothermal installations, making them simpler and safer for people to install in their homes or commercial buildings.”
When people think of NYC, they envision Manhattan, but in truth it is five boroughs, pointed out Jack DiEnna, executive director and founder of the Geothermal National & International Initiative. “Even though we have projects in Manhattan, it’s obviously easier and less costly to put them in the other four boroughs,” he said.
“New York has a long history of supporting geothermal heat pump technology,” explained DiEnna. “This started with New York City councilman [James] Gennaro and Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2013 with the passage of Int. 694-A, which cleared the way for the study of geothermal energy systems in New York City, showing that NYC has some of the best geology and conditions for the adoption of geothermal systems. It was then expanded upon with Int. 0609, championed by councilman Constantinides, which promotes the use of geothermal systems throughout NYC.”
DiEnna elaborated that geothermal technology itself is quite simple: “It is using the energy under our feet to deliver space conditioning [heating and cooling] and water heating, using the energy we already own to accomplish that. Geothermal heat pump technology is a 60-year-old American technology that delivers the ‘Triple E’ benefits of energy efficiency and security [lower utility bills, reducing strain on the power grid]; environmental stability [reduced emissions]; and economic prosperity [job creation].”
To date, there are over 100 geothermal projects online across the five boroughs, and approximately 90% are closed-loop, vertical-bore systems, per the New York Times. Some of the quite famous locations with geothermal installations include likes of the American Institute of Architects, the Times Square TKTS Booth, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the Queens Botanical Garden, and the Bronx Zoo Lion House.
“Our study earlier this year showed that New York City has some of the best geology and conditions for the adoption of geothermal systems,” said director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Nilda Mesa. “At the same time, in areas that are not suited for these systems, it’s important for building owners to know that up front. We look forward to clearing the way for more geothermal systems in New York City at less cost and planning time for building owners and to finding ways to use this strategy more often in our own municipal buildings where we can.”
DiEnna clarified that geothermal has been backed by New York Public Service commissioner Patricia Acampora for over 10 years and has additionally been labeled a renewable thermal asset in the clean energy fund in the REV [Reforming the Energy Vision] program.
DiEnna believes the council’s action can and should be emulated in any municipality across the country. “Increased use of geothermal heat pump systems reduces energy costs for the end user; reduces peak load, which supports a stronger grid; reduces emissions; and creates jobs,” DiEnna said. DiEnna is not the only one who predicts that geothermal initiatives and legislation will continue to rise in coming years, with the Big Apple standing out as a precursor to other cities investing in geothermal.
President and CEO of the Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) Doug Dougherty thinks legislation like NYC’s can be implemented at every level of local government. Dougherty is sure this forward-thinking investment in geothermal technology will take off in cities spanning the country. “What works in NYC can work elsewhere. NYC sets out a process for adoption, and the last section of the bill paves the way for easier adoption of geothermal heat pump systems by developing standards for the design and installations of these systems, including the suspension of closed loops in marine surface waters around the city.” On an altogether promising note, Dougherty observed that GEO didn’t field any opposition to the NYC council bill, which is a good predictor for the fate of similar geothermal legislation.
DiEnna is currently harnessing NYC’s initiative to engage in discourse with other cities and stated the cities in question are interested in how successful the NYC council’s legislation will be, which could result in a positive impact on geothermal technology moving forward. As DiEnna said, “People do believe that if it can be done in NYC, it can be done anywhere.”
New Finnish Geothermal District Heating Project to Begin Drilling
With drilling slated to begin this spring, a Finnish project is advancing with a planned geothermal district heating project. St1 Deep Heat Oy has invested in the construction a geothermal heat pilot plant in Otaniemi, Espoo. The goal is to initiate well drilling to a depth of seven km in late March or early April.
“Geothermal heat is a completely new and emission-free alternative for heat production”, stated the press release, explaining that it “can revolutionize the district heat production in Finland. In fact, the pilot project in Espoo is one of the first key projects in renewable energy during this government term to which the Ministry of Employment and the Economy has decided to grant an investment subsidy. The Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation Tekes also provides significant support to the scientific research related to the project. One of the goals of the pilot project is to increase Finnish expertise in the field of geothermal heat production for future use. The project was also chosen as the best innovation of 2015 in the field of district heating in a competition with the aim of finding new technical solutions, services or business models for the field.”
“The geothermal heat pilot plant in Espoo is one of the most important research and product development investments in the field of energy in our country. It’s great that society is involved in supporting a project and development that may lead to a giant leap towards stopping the use of fossil fuels in heat production. District heat based mainly on fossil energy is the most common form of heating in Finland. The pilot project can offer a renewable, emission-free source of energy for district heat production, and it can be linked directly into the existing district heat network,” said Director of Renewable Energy of St1 Jari Suominen.
Through competitive tendering, St1 Deep Heat has joined Strada Energy as its partner in creating deep-rock wells. The British company is specialized in geothermal drilling and its employees collectively have many decades of experience tackling difficult projects. Strada utilizes patented technology that makes deep drilling in Finland’s hard granite bedrock feasible. In addition, the company’s mode of operation and cost effectiveness are a good match for the Espoo project.
Strada Energy CEO Glenn Baldwin expressed that his company was excited to partner with St1 Deep Heat: “We are very pleased to be collaborating with St1 in executing this ground-breaking and environmentally significant European project. Strada’s unique patented fluid hammer operating system combined with water-based percussion techniques enables a cost-efficient and quick way to drill over 7000 metres total measured depth wells in granite. We look forward to a long relationship with St1 who are world-leaders in their renewable energy vision.”
It is thought that the heat well drilling phase will take around six months. The heat pilot plant is scheduled to be complete in 2017. The heat generated will be sold to Fortum’s district heating network and will cover a maximum of 10% of Espoo’s district heating needs.