California ??? on the bring of a new geothermal boom? ??? Will Pettitt of GRC

  • Jul 26, 2019
  • ThinkGeo Energy

In an opinion article by Will Pettitt, Executive Director of GRC in the U.S. he describes the potential geothermal boom in California based on the California Public Utility Commissions decision on a 2,900 MW target for geothermal in the state.

In a recent post on LinkedIn, Will Pettitt, Executive Director of the Geothermal Resources Council in Davis, California is sharing his view on how California could be ???on the brink of a geothermal boom???, describing it as ???exciting news for the United States and the World???.

California is going through an amazing transition to 100% renewable and clean power by 2045 [1 ??? CPUC.ca.gov]. That???s incredibly exciting for everybody in our international geothermal community as geothermal energy will be a major piece of the transition.

A recent decision by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) gave geothermal a target for supplying 2,900 MW of net power into the grid in 2030. Considering the current metrics for geothermal power generation in the state, this equates to the industry needing to install about 2,500 MW of new nameplate capacity over the next decade. This is also exciting news for the rest of the USA and the world because the evolution of the geothermal power market in California highlights geothermal???s critical role in fighting climate change and transitioning to renewable energy that can be translated elsewhere. As well as a direct reduction of green-house gases, geothermal power underpins the growth of intermittent power sources with renewable baseload that gives unique reliability and resilience to the grid in a transitioning power economy.

California is leading the way for our industry with large geothermal resources at its fingertips.??The GRC???s Annual Meeting & Expo, September 13-20, is in Palm Springs, California, just north of the Imperial Valley, one of the most productive and promising regions for geothermal power generation in the western hemisphere (Figure 1 below). The GRC has a worldwide footprint with over a third of our members based outside the USA and the attendance at our annual meeting is an illustration of that global presence. With the USA being the largest market for geothermal power in the world, and California being the fifth largest economy in the world (greater than the United Kingdom, India and France, the next three ranking economies) [2 ??? CBS News], then the Golden State is an ideal location for the largest gathering of the geothermal industry this year. We???d best take notice and come together as a community and industry to help make California???s energy transition work!

Figure 1:??Estimated known geothermal resources in California based on previous industry research by the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), now being updated by the Geothermal Resources Council (GRC). Graphics courtesy of Jonathan Weisgall, Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

Let???s review some metrics. The USA is the largest producer of geothermal power in the world, with 3x the installed Nameplate Capacity than any other country [3]. However, growth in the USA has stagnated over the past 7 years or so (Figure 2) at about 3,700 MW. The total installed capacity for the world is about 14,000 MW and in California it???s about 2,500 MW (2/3???s of the USA capacity or about double the next highest-ranking country, Turkey, at 1,300 MW). The reason for the growth stagnation in the USA is open for debate at the GRC???s Annual Meeting & Expo, where we will have a number of expert panels discussing the issues. For sure, (in my opinion) hurdles to growth include as key factors: a lack of investment in the industry; accompanied by a lack of reducing the barriers to that investment; and, combined with a lack of utility procurement based on transmission system need rather than solely MWh price. The dramatic growth in unconventional natural gas plays during that time period also displaced the political will of many to develop renewables, other than the low hanging fruit of wind and solar. We???d best overcome these hurdles if we???re going to be successful through the energy transition over the next 10-30 years!

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