This story is about new developments in traditional geothermal energy where the thriving market for New Energies is driving an expansion. Karl Gawell, executive director, Geothermal Energy Association: "A lot of people are looking at the U.S. and saying this is a largely (underdeveloped) market…"
There is anther geothermal story that this piece only touches on: Deep Geothermal. Because experts believe all US geologic structures with geothermal potential may be developed in the next 10 to 15 years, producers are drilling deeper. They want to force cool water through molten rock in the furthest reaches of the earth’s crust and bring it back up hot enough to make steam that would drive generators and produce electricity. Presently, it is mostly theory. Federal funding for research may be in the offing. (See DEEP GEOTHERMAL: UPS & DOWNS)
Unknown Alt Energy Field Heats Up
December 5, 2007 (Investor’s Business Daily via Yahoo News)
Geothermal developers Ormat Technologies (Paul Thomsen, public policy manager) and Raser Technologies; Analysts Dan Mannes (Avondale Partners) and Howard Rosencrans (Capital Growth Financial); The Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
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There is new interest is geothermal energy. An example is Ormat. Its shares are up 50+% since June. Its profits and sales are also up in the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2007. Besides the general boom in New Energy, government incentives and the opening of new federal lands for exploration by the BLM are driving growth.
- In 2005 the federal government extended wind’s production tax credit (PTC) to geothermal.
- U.S. geothermal energy projects are up fivefold in the last few years.
- By 2010, the number of countries producing geothermal resources is expected to double and geothermal plant capacity is expected to go from the present 9000 megawatts to 13,500 megawatts.
- Indonesia, Honduras and Germany are presently developing geothermal.
- The west is the US’s most active region. Ormat is developing plants in California and Nevada.
- Chevron has plants in Asia. Calpine has plants in California. Italy's Enel is pursuing land for geothermal development in Nevada.
- The earth’s core is immeasurably hot molten rock. Outside it is a thick mantle of very high temperature. A thin mostly very hot “rind” lays over the mantle and the habitable surface is a thin layer on the rind. Geothermal companies drill into the crust to where the heat contacts with water and draw off a steaming brine (water, mineral salts, etc.). They pumps the hot brine out, draw off the vapor and use it to drive turbines to create electricity.
- The process generates almost no emissions, is constant and the heat coming from the earth is so abundant it seems renewable or at least enough so that it counts as part of state Renewable Electricity Standard mandates.
- The US is the world’s largest geothermal producer.
The US, especially in the West, is rich in hot spots. (click to enlarge)
- Mannes, analyst: “[Geothermal is not broadly enough understood…In many ways it is a much higher-quality source of energy [than other alternative energies]…It takes two to three years to build these (geothermal) plants…The revenue growth isn't as fast (as with solar or wind projects), but the plants have a longer life."
- Thomsen, Ormat: "Geothermal runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year…"
- Rosencrans, analyst: "[Raser is] pursuing an enormous opportunity…Geothermal is potentially big."