A new 15 megawatt, utility scale geothermal power plant has just come online in Jersey Valley, Nevada.The project is significant because according to its host company, Ormat Technologies, it was the only utility-scale geothermal plant to be completed in the U.S. within the past year or so. Geothermal is reliable, renewable, clean energy produced right here in the U.S., and it’s not subject to global market fluctuations or political turmoil overseas — say, shouldn’t we be building these things at a rate of more than just one per year?
First, The Good News About Geothermal Energy in the U.S.
Geothermal energy from the new plant in Nevada will be purchased by NV Energy, which already has an extensive geothermal energy portfolio dating back to the 1980’s. The portfolio currently includes 400 MW and the company expects to give it a big bounce up to 570 MW in the near future. That’s just one utility company, and it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the U.S. potential. The Department of Defense recently estimated that the geothermal potential on U.S. military facilities alone is a cool 926 gigawatts. Along with massive new wind power projects and solar installations, geothermal could play a significant role in our domestic energy future.
And Now, the Bad News
The only thing needed to speed things along is a forceful national energy policy that supports clean energy. The Obama administration has gone a long way with grants and loans for new clean energy projects and research, but Congress also has to step up with a regulatory framework that promotes clean energy. That’s not likely to happen any time soon given the stated intention of some members to gut the federal government’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
Another Path to Clean Energy
Even though some members of Congress digging in their heels, the Obama administration can still keep things moving in the right direction by tinkering with the federal budget. The President’s forthcoming budget still includes plenty of public support for the fossil fuel industry but he will propose ending $4 billion in annual subsidies for oil companies, presumably to help provide some wiggle room for clean energy support. The pushback from the oil industry is only just beginning so hold on to your hats.
Image: Geothermal energy by Ken Lund on flickr.com.
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