Early this week, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell delivered a keynote address at the National Clean Energy Summit. Her remarks included support for the growth of renewable energy including geothermal energy.
“We applaud Secretary Jewell for the announcement today reaffirming the Administration’s commitment to approve 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy production on public lands by 2020,” said Karl Gawell, executive director for the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) in response to her speech. “With roughly one-half of the geothermal power produced today located on federal public lands, it is important for the Department of Interior to maintain a priority for leasing and permitting new geothermal power projects.”
Gawell said the Administration’s commitment will move forward two geothermal areas in Southern California, establishing a new area in the West Chocolate Mountains and approving a new 40 MW power plant in Mono County. Gawell said it has been estimated that together these federal lands could add 190MW of new geothermal capacity, and for comparison purposes that would produce the equivalent power of over 1,000 MW of solar photovoltaics. If the full capacity expected at these sites is developed, it would mean over 1,200 construction and manufacturing jobs on an annual basis, and approximately 325 full-time permanent jobs in Southern California alone.
There is strong interest in geothermal development in this area, according to Gawell, with several companies recently permitting or building new power plants. “We expect as California moves forward to increase its commitment to a carbon-free power system, geothermal power will grow in importance because it can provide the firm or flexible power needed to maintain system reliability, achieve climate goals, and do so with low integration costs,” Gawell added.
GEA recently released an updated Air Emissions Comparison and Externality Analysis showing geothermal energy provides significant benefits to public health and the environment as one of the least-polluting and most environmentally friendly forms of energy. The analysis found binary geothermal plants produce virtually no greenhouse gases (GHG) and dry steam and flash geothermal plants put out only trace amounts of emissions. GEA estimates geothermal provides approximately $88 million in externality benefits per year to California and $29 million to Nevadans by avoiding fossil fuel emissions.
In addition, GEA, together with the California Geothermal Energy Collaborative, have published a report “Energizing Southern California’s Economy” that examines the geothermal power potential in Southern California and the economic benefits to the region of developing them.