Geothermal Industry

The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) is calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to include geothermal energy in the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP). In a letter, GEA makes the following suggestions that would allow geothermal power plants to fully be included in CEIP:

  1. Include metered MWh generated from geothermal resources or allow states to include geothermal resources if their state contains these resources.
  2. Since the timeframe for geothermal includes exploration and more permitting in many states than an equivalent wind or solar project, include projects where significant construction has begun; this could include a binding written contract to the manufacture, construct, or produce electricity on a piece of the geothermal property, and includes expansion of existing facilities (incremental generation) or a new facility.
  3. Projects online in 2020 and 2021 under this program would receive credit for their MWh generated like wind or a solar project.

US geothermal energy photo DOE“Without this amendment to the CEIP program, GEA is concerned the way the current rule is written would shift investment away from geothermal projects in the west,” states the letter, noting geothermal’s importance in the low-income communities such as the Imperial and Coachella Valleys.

The letter states, “geothermal power meets the criteria and the spirit of the CEIP by providing emission free power in low-income communities. In fact, studies have shown, geothermal binary plants are less polluting than either wind or solar technologies on a lifecycle basis. In addition, these plants are located in some areas with the highest unemployment rates in the west. Adding geothermal to this provision could help expand these facilities, providing jobs and economic opportunities in these impoverished communities. Overall, geothermal power will be essential to western states’ long term clean energy portfolio and economies, while being consistent with the CEIP’s directive to advance clean technology in impoverished communities.”

Recently several senators (Reid, Feinstein, Boxer, Wyden, Merkley, Hirono, and Schatz), submitted a letter to EPA Administrator McCarthy also calling for geothermal energy to be included in the program. The letter stated, “We have noted that the Clean Energy Incentive Program includes solar and wind energy, but does not include a number of other important clean energy technologies that the federal government has historically defined as renewable energy resources, like geothermal energy, marine and hydrokinetic energy, biomass, small irrigation power, and qualified hydropower, as defined under Section 45(c) of the Internal Revenue Code. The Environmental Protection Agency should ensure that other clean energy sources of electricity are eligible for matching emission rate credits under the Clean Energy Incentive Program.”

Geothermal May be Africa’s Energy Solution

Representatives from 12 African countries gathered in Nairobi recently to discuss the feasibility of establishing the Africa Geothermal Centre of Excellence (AGCE). The center would work to improve the continent’s institutional and infrastructural capacities including bringing and training geothermal scientists an engineers.

Oklaria Geothermal Plant in Kenya.

Oklaria Geothermal Plant in Kenya.

Around 600 million people in Africa lack access to grid electricity, with the number expected to rise to 700 million by 2030. As a result, the continent is increasingly looking to alternative energy sources to bridge that gap especially geothermal opportunities. With an estimated potential of 20,000 MW, geothermal energy could provide an answer to the continent’s energy shortage.

The majority of the potential energy source remains largely untapped in part due to a lack of skilled workforce. AGCE would address this issue and become the vehicle to training a talented geothermal energy workforce and thus open the doors to sustainable geothermal development.

During the workshop, the attendees reviewed a feasibility study that catalgoues the region’s needs and potential for geothermal. In addition, the group also created AGCE’s vision and developed its long-term sustainability.

The meeting was organized by the United Nation Environment Programme’s (UNEP) African Rift Geothermal Development Facility (ARGeo) and brought together country representatives, African governments, development partners, donors, civil society, private developers, technical institutions and academia. AGCE is expected to be established in Kenya, which is the main hub for geothermal technology on the continent, with a natural laboratory and a major geothermal agency.

Energy Policy Modernization Act Intro’d

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash) have introduced legislation entitled “The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015,” a bipartisan bill designed to increase the use of renewable energy in the U.S. Karl Gladwell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) noted that the legislation would help America achieve its geothermal potential, “by addressing some of the most important barriers to geothermal development in the U.S.”

Photo Credit: Geothermal Technologies Office

Photo Credit: Geothermal Technologies Office

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.

“Our energy renaissance has taken us from a position of energy scarcity to one of energy abundance, but current law rarely reflects that fact. After months of working together, the bipartisan legislation we introduced today marks a critical step toward the modernization of our federal energy policies. By focusing on areas where agreement was possible, we have assembled a robust bill with priorities from many senators that will promote our economic growth, national security, and global competitiveness,” Chairman Murkowski said in a press statement.

The Senators cite that the end result will be more affordable energy, more abundant energy, and more functional energy systems that will strengthen and sustain our energy nation’s renaissance. The bipartisan Energy Policy Modernization Act will also achieve these goals in a fiscally-responsible manner.

Earlier this week 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 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. The bill now awaits the Committee’s markup, expected next Tuesday.

Geothermal Industry Calls for Tax Extender Credits

The geothermal industry is happy with the news that the Senate Finance Committee voted for a package of tax extenders proposed by Chairman Orin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Democrat Ron Wyden (D-OR). The package includes provisions extending the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for new geothermal power facilities that “start construction” by the end of 2016. Developers retain the option of converting the PTC to a 30 percent investment tax GEA logocredit. The PTC expired at the end of 2014, although it was extended in December 2015 for a two-week period that was far too short to benefit geothermal projects according to Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA).

“This is important news for geothermal developers,” said Gawell. “It will help spur the market for new geothermal power plants which has been suffering due to slack demand and uneven tax treatment,” he said.

The Committee voted 23-3 in support of the package, with strong majorities of both Republican and Democratic Members supporting the bill. The tax extenders bill, entitled “An Original Bill to Extend Certain Expired Tax Provisions,” now moves to the Senate floor.

“The strong bi-partisan support in Committee is a good sign for the future of the Senate Tax Extenders Bill,” Gawell noted.

Mid-Year Renewable Energy Check-Up

Heading in to the second half of 2015, renewable energy accounted for nearly 70 percent of new electrical generation for the firs six months as reported by the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects. The report finds wind accounts for more than half (50.64%) of the 1,969 MW of new installed capacity. Solar accounted for 549 MW, bimomass with 128 MW, geothermal with 45 MW and hydropower with 21 MW. The rest of the new capacity was added using natural gas (1,173 MW).

© Metalmaster | - Solar Panels Photo

© Metalmaster | – Solar Panels Photo

FERC reported no new capacity for the year-to-date from oil or nuclear power and just 3 MW from one unit of coal. Thus, as calculated by the SUN DAY Campaign, new capacity from renewable energy sources during the first half of 2015 is 904 times greater than that from coal and more than double that from natural gas. For June alone, wind (320 MW), biomass (95 MW), and solar (62 MW) provided 97 percent of new capacity with natural gas providing the balance (15 MW).

Renewable energy sources now account for 17.27 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water – 8.61 percent, wind – 5.84 percent, biomass – 1.40 percent, solar – 1.08 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.34 percent (for comparison, renewables were 16.28 percent of capacity in June 2014 and 15.81% in June 2013).

Renewable electrical capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.20%) and oil (3.87%) combined. In fact, the installed capacity of wind power alone has now surpassed that of oil. On the other hand, sources the SUN DAY Campaign, generating capacity from coal has declined from 28.96 percent in mid-2013 to 26.83 percent today.

“With Congress now debating whether to extend the federal tax incentives for renewable energy sources, it is reasonable to ask whether the American public has gotten a good return on these investments to date,” noted Ken Bossong, executive eirector of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The latest FERC data confirms that the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’.”

GEA Good Source for Clean Power Plan

During the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency EXPO and Policy Forum that took place in Washington, D.C. on July 9, 2015, Karl Gawell, executive director for the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), called on bipartisan action. “In the world market, policymakers are working to address the upfront risk of geothermal projects and shortening lead times. Congress needs to take action on pending legislation to make similar progress in the U.S.,” Gawell said.

He added that geothermal projects are subject to extensive bureaucratic delays. “Geothermal development projects can go through as many as six NEPA analyses,” explained Gawell. As a result, geothermal projects cannot effectively take advantage of short-term tax incentives. We need longer term incentives.

There are currently several pieces of legislation pending in the U.S. House and Senate that seek support for renewable energy including geothermal energy development (S.562, S.822, S.1057, S.1155 and S. 1407, in the Senate). Gaswell called out to legislators: “We urge the sponsors of the individual pieces — Senators Heller, Wyden, Tester, Risch, Crapo, Merkley, Murkowski and others (as well as Representatives Simpson, DeFazio and Gosar) – to work together on a bipartisan basis if an energy bill moves forward.” Continue reading

Trevor Day School Uses Geothermal for Energy, Education

Trevor Day School, located in New York City, is using geothermal for energy and education. The technology used is the first by an educational institute as well as the first on the East Coast to contribute to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 80 percent prior to 2050.

The system contains structural piles that are made from reinforced concrete. They are turned into heat exchangers by adding loops of plastic pipes down their length with some going more than 80 feet deep. They provide both support for the building, but also allow the structure to extract and store heat from the earth to use in heating and cooling the building.

A view from First Avenue of Trevor's new LEED qualifying, state-of-the-art, geothermal school building; a first of its kind on the East Coast. (Photo: Business Wire)

A view from First Avenue of Trevor’s new LEED qualifying, state-of-the-art, geothermal school building; a first of its kind on the East Coast. (Photo: Business Wire)

To learn more about the project, DomesticFuel spoke to several of the project team members including Michael Paquette, P.E. senior project engineer for Langan. He explained that this technology was different than many current geothermal projects.

On ‘traditional’ geothermal projects, the geothermal loops are installed in boreholes drilled specifically to install the geothermal loops, or in shallow trenches excavated specifically for geothermal loops, explained Paquette. However, at Trevor Day School, the geothermal loops were installed in pile foundations that were already required for the building (hence the term ‘energy piles’).

“The value of the energy piles is that the piles must be installed for the building’s foundation support, so adding geothermal loops inside the piles themselves is a relatively lower cost compared to drilling dedicated boreholes for the geothermal loops,” continued Paquette. “The piles serve dual purpose as foundation support and energy transfer. Although energy piles are becoming more common in Europe, Trevor Day School is one of the first projects in the USA to use this technology and will hopefully serve as a catalyst for other developers in the U.S. to consider this technology.”

What is the return on investment of this clean energy technology? Continue reading

USDA Funds 544 REAP Projects

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded 544 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects more than $6.7 million as part of the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement at the Snake River Brewing Company, in Jackson, Wyoming. The company received a $13,810 REAP grant to install a solar panel to generate energy for the business.

srb-logo-3dThese grants will help farmers, ranchers and small business owners use more renewable energy, which cuts carbon pollution, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, saves businesses money on their energy bills and creates American jobs,” Vilsack said. “All of these are crucial components to developing healthier, more economically vibrant rural communities.”

REAP was created by the 2002 Farm Bill and was reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. REAP funding has helped farmers expand renewable energy use in recent years. The new Census of Agriculture shows the number of farms utilizing renewable energy production has doubled in the last five years. Since 2009, USDA has awarded $545 million to support more than 8,800 REAP projects nationwide.

Eligible agricultural producers and rural small businesses may use REAP funds to make energy efficiency improvements or install renewable energy systems, including solar, wind, renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters), small hydroelectric, ocean energy, hydrogen and geothermal.

Renewables “Rock” U.S. Energy Growth

The SUN Day Campaign’s Ken Bossong, has noted once again that renewable energy sources are dominating the new energy landscape according to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects. The reports shows wind and solar accounted for all new generating capacity placed in-service in April. For the month, two “units” of wind (the 300 MW Hereford-2 Wind Farm Project in Deaf Smith County, TX and the 211 MW Mesquite Creek Wind Project in Dawson County, TX) came on line in addition to six new units – totaling 50 MW – of solar.

In addition, wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower together have provided over 84 percent (84.1%) of the 1,900 MW of new U.S. electrical generating capacity placed into service during the first third of 2015. This includes 1,170 MW of wind (61.5%), 362 MW of solar (19.1%), 45 MW of geothermal steam (2.4%), and 21 MW of hydropower (1.1%). The balance (302 MW) was provided by five units of natural gas.

Hereford Wind ProjectFERC has reported no new capacity for the year-to-date from biomass sources nor any from coal, oil, or nuclear power.

The reports finds the total contribution of geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind for the first four months of 2015 (1,598 MW) is similar to that for the same period in 2014 (1,611 MW – in addition to 116 MW of biomass). However, for the same period in 2014, natural gas added 1,518 MW of new capacity while coal and nuclear again provided none and oil just 1 MW. Renewable energy sources accounted for half of all new generating capacity added in 2014.

“Members of Congress and state legislators proposing to curb support for renewable energy, such as Renewable Portfolio/Electricity Standards and the federal Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit, are swimming against the tide,” noted Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “With renewable energy’s clear track record of success and the ever-worsening threat of climate change, now is not the time to pull back from these technologies but rather to greatly expand investments in them.”

Today renewable energy sources now account for 17.05 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the country: water – 8.55 percent, wind – 5.74 percent, biomass – 1.38 percent, solar – 1.05 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.33 percent (for comparison, renewables were 13.71 percent of capacity in December 2010 – the first month for which FERC issued an “Energy Infrastructure Update”).

For renewable energy supporters, what may be the best news: renewable energy capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.14%) and oil (3.92%) combined. In fact, the installed capacity of wind power alone has now surpassed that of oil. In addition, total installed operating generating capacity from solar has now reached and surpassed the one-percent threshold – a ten-fold increase since December 2010.

GEA Tells Senate: Geothermal Yes

The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) is vocally supporting a bi-partisan legislation package that they say “would help expand geothermal power by addressing some of the most important barriers to geothermal development in the U.S.” according to Karl Gawell, Executive Director of the Geothermal Energy Association, GEA. The association singled out 562, S. 1057. (Note S. 822 is included as a provision of S. 1057.)

GEA logoS.562, Sponsored by Senator Heller (R-NV) and co-sponsored by Senator Risch (R-ID) would provide help for new geothermal projects to shorten delays at one of the most critical and risky phases of development – exploration, GEA explained. “Given the multiple NEPA processes required for geothermal development, and the inclusion of a restriction for lands involving extraordinary circumstances, we believe this process improvement can be made without risk to the environment,” GEA said. This legislation would provide geothermal exploration the same treatment afforded oil and gas exploration under the 2005 Energy Policy Act – a limited categorical exclusion — with the additional restriction for lands or resources viewed as involving extraordinary circumstance.

S. 1057, Sponsored by Senator Wyden (D-OR) and co-sponsored by Senator ester (D-MT) proposes several initiatives that GEA supported. It would:

  • set a 50,000MW 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 from their wells — today 25 billion barrels of hot water is produced annually from oil and gas wells within the United States that is wasted;
  • authorize cost shared exploration of geothermal energy resources;
  • re-authorize the use of geothermal lease revenues to support the expansion of our knowledge of the resource base; and
  • facilitate new discoveries, by allowing the limited non-competitive leasing of adjacent lands where a new discovery has been made.

According to GEA, the Wyden bill would “help spur the discovery and development of the substantial untapped geothermal energy resources here in the U.S. 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, even as it reduces emissions, helps state and local economies, and creates jobs in both the oil and gas, and the renewable sectors.”