GEA official says geothermal roughly a decade behind wind

The head of the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) said Sept. 30 that geothermal power is probably a decade behind where wind energy is now in terms of project development.

GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell attributed this lag to the fact that geothermal did not start qualifying for significant tax incentives until probably 2005. The federal government has been very successful in stimulating wind and solar growth through tax policy and the same can be accomplished with geothermal, the GEA official said.

Gawell and other geothermal leaders discussed the industry during a conference call with reporters that originated from a geothermal conference in Las Vegas.

Some officials have said geothermal has not enjoyed wider development in California because of California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) policy that does not adequately credit geothermal “baseload” advantage over intermittent wind and solar.

California municipals that are not regulated by CPUC have been quicker to embrace geothermal, the officials said.

During the conference call, Gradient Resources CEO Craig Mataczynski and Ormat Technologies (NYSE:ORA) Vice President of Business Development Bob Sullivan said their companies are making significant progress toward serving markets in the West.

Gradient started construction on the Patua geothermal power plant in Nevada in late 2011. The project, located about 38 miles East of Reno is expected to enter commercial operation later this year.

Patua is being developed in phases with the first 30-MW being contracted to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) starting this year.

Ormat said Sept. 6 that it has entered into a new 10-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Southern California Public Power Authority (SCPPA) to deliver electricity from its Heber 1 geothermal power plant at the Heber complex in Imperial Valley, California beginning Dec. 16, 2015.

Also an Ormat subsidiary said Sept. 26 that it has entered Joint Development Agreement with eBay Inc. for the development of a 5-MW Recovered Energy Generation (REG) power plant to be constructed in Utah. The Joint Development Agreement allows Ormat and eBay Inc. to advance negotiations on a 20-year term contract and begin preliminary development work to supply cleaner electricity to eBay Inc.’s new Salt Lake City-based data center.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.