Global Geothermal Markets Booming - Will the US Get Left Behind?

Article by: Meg Cichon, Associate Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld.com

When speaking to a geothermal advocate, it is likely that they will express a common frustration about the industry: geothermal, unlike wind and solar, is a baseload, guaranteed source of steady power, so why isn't there enough favorable policy in the U.S. to help the industry grow?

During the geothermal policy panel discussion at the Renewable Energy World North America Conference and Expo, co-located with POWER-GEN International, panelists described the scene in the U.S. government and expressed concern over the fact that if something doesn't change, the U.S. geothermal industry might get left behind.

While the wind industry is fighting for an extension of the production tax credit (PTC) set to expire at the end of this year, Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), explained a current Senate proposal that could benefit both wind and geothermal. The proposal changes the condition of the PTC so that projects under construction by January 1, 2014 would qualify, rather than completed projects.

Gawell is confident that the provision will pass. “This stands a good chance. In Washington, no one ever tells you that something stands a good chance, but I think this right now stands a reasonably good chance, but it has to be part of the bigger deal.”

Its supporters include the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), GEA, National Hydropower Association (NHA) and more. According to Gawell, the fiscal cliff deal will be the vehicle that pushes the PTC.

If the PTC provision passes, Gawell said he expects 2013 to be a “boom year” for the geothermal industry. Instead of companies and projects phasing out due to an expiring tax credit, the industry will be scrambling to get more projects qualified.

“What do you want people to be doing, try to minimize projects to get the under the wire, or try to get out there and start building projects?,” Gawell said. “The government wants the latter, so it has a lot of support.”

While there is hope for the PTC provision, the geothermal industry still faces numerous challenges. One major barrier discussed during the session was permitting. According to Gawell, a project typically takes 7.5 years to complete, and four of those years are bogged down with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) studies.

“We need people from the renewable community and people from the environmental community to come together and create a proposal to deal with this problem soon,” said Gawell. “We don’t want to end up in a corner where we are either not building these projects and having climate change come down around our ears, or we are building these projects but repealed NEPA. We need to find somewhere in the middle.”

According to Mike Long of POWER Engineering and Halley Dickey of TAS Energy, the geothermal industry is seeing huge growth globally, most notably in East Africa. In Kenya, for example, development banks have been funding renewable projects, and $18 billion will be spent on geothermal alone by 2030. Dickey expressed the need for companies to move overseas and expand globally, where it is likely most development will take place in the foreseeable future. But with companies moving overseas, many question the future viability of the U.S. geothermal market.

Long expressed the fact that geothermal isn’t taken as seriously in the U.S. as other countries because it only makes up 0.4 percent of installed capacity, unlike other countries where it may be 20 percent or more. In order for geothermal to be taken seriously and grow in the U.S., it needs stable policy that extends for consecutive years, not just one. 

Long said that during the keynote presentation for the POWER-GEN and REWNA conference, he was surprised that the speakers said they expect renewable energy capacity to double in the coming years, but wasn't surprised to see that geothermal was missing from the energy capacity chart. 

“One year we’ll come to POWER-GEN, and maybe we won’t be in the ‘other energy’ category,” said Long. “We’ll have our own little slice of the [energy capacity] pie chart.”

Sponsored by FLSmidth
Follow Power Engineering on Twitter
Latest News
Exelon-Pepco release statement, say D.C. Public Service Commission failed to see merger's 'substantial' customer benefits

Exelon-Pepco: Regulators failed to see merger's 'substantial' customer benefits

Despite a unanimous rejection from regulators in the nation’s capital, power companies Exelon...
Makai’s plant will generate 100 kW of sustainable, continuous electricity – enough to power 120 homes in Hawaii each year.

Makai Ocean Engineering connects world's largest OTEC plant to U.S. grid

Makai’s plant will generate 100 kW of sustainable, continuous electricity – enough to power 1...
Canadian Solar sells stake in Tranquility solar power project in California to Southern Power

Canadian Solar unit sells solar power project stake to Southern

Canadian Solar Inc. said its subsidiary sold its ownership stake in a 200-MW solar power proj...
Plant Vogtle construction costs down in first half 2015

Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion spending down in first half of 2015

Georgia Power said in a report that the utility estimates it will spend less on construction ...
Renewable energy developer Cypress Creek Renewables building 2 utility-scale solar farms in South Carolina

Renewable energy developer Cypress Creek Renewables building 2 utility-scale solar farms in South Carolina

Cypress Creek Renewables is investing more than $20 million in new projects in South Carolina.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday cited a

US regulators, Millstone nuke plant settle dispute

The parent company of Connecticut's nuclear plant and federal regulators have reached a settl...
Duke Energy is looking to bring 53 MW of utility-scale solar capacity to the company’s South Carolina service areas by the end of 2016.

Duke Energy launching solar-generating program for South Carolina customers

Duke Energy is looking to bring 53 MW of utility-scale solar capacity to the company’s South ...

Power Engineering Current Issue

02/01/2015
Volume 119, Issue 2
1502PE-cover
Products Showcase
Dynamic Fluoride Ion cleaning DFIC of industrial natural gas turbines Hi-Tech Furnace Systems

Dynamic Fluoride Ion Cleaning of IGT Parts

The Dynamic Fluoride Ion Cleaning (DFIC) Process from Hi-Tech Furnace Systems is able to clean deep, narrow cracks of oxides by cycling between negative, atmospheric, and positive pressure.

Archived Articles

2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

Power Industry Wire News

Sunergy Management and Its IPP Partner Has Received an Invitation From the Government of Liberia to Attend the US-Liberia Trade and Investment Forum Held in NY on September 16

Sunergy Management and Its IPP Partner Has Received an Invitation From the Government o...

UGE International and Alpha Energy to Collaborate on Microgrid Projects

UGE International and Alpha Energy to Collaborate on Microgrid Projects

Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership to Explore Tethered Drone Commercialization With Drone Aviation Holding Corp.

Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership to Explore Tethered Drone Commercialization With Dron...

Perma-Fix Medical S.A. Announces Successful Completion of 6 Curie Tests With Scale-Up of Its Non-Uranium Process to Procure Technetium-99m

Perma-Fix Medical S.A. Announces Successful Completion of 6 Curie Tests With Scale-Up o...

Power, Rail, Pharma Lead Northeast in $100 Billion of Planned Projects, an Industrial Info News Alert

Power, Rail, Pharma Lead Northeast in $100 Billion of Planned Projects, an Industrial I...

Power Engineering

Article Archives for Power Engineering Magazine

Continuing Education

Professional Development Hours

To access a course listing associated to a specific topic listed below, click on the topic of choice from the list below.

Latest Energy Jobs

View more Job Listings >>