1st Ever National GEA Geothermal Energy Summit

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I saved 4 emails on this in the most important area of my email inbox, so that I would try to make sure to write on it. It was the 1st national Geothermal Energy Summit hosted by the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA). I know, geothermal isn’t as sexy as wind or solar, and many of you probably don’t even know what geothermal energy is. But I think geothermal has a ton of potential and I think it’ll be a much more important part of our energy mix before long. So, I’m a little disappointed that I never got around to highlighting the conference before it happened… but in place of that, I’m going to post the news release that followed it (via the GEA). Check it out, if you haven’t been keeping up with geothermal news and didn’t make the conference:

Reno, Nev. (August 18, 2011)— The GEA’s Inaugural National Geothermal Summit culminated on Wednesday after two days of intense discussions related to large scale exploration, equitable tax treatment, reducing development times, funding science and education needs and clearly defining geothermal’s intrinsic attributes and how the industry should market that to potential off-takers. More than 300 policy and industry leaders gathered in Reno for a successful session on moving utility scale geothermal energy forward despite challenging issues facing the industry.

“The geothermal industry has the ability to provide a significant portion of home grown energy to U.S. households but we need three things: certainty from policy makers, permit streamlining, and constructive partnerships between business and policy leaders to expedite the process,” said GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell. “Megawatt for megawatt, geothermal employs four times as many Americans as natural gas, and the industry is creating thousands of jobs, even as other industries suffer. This means taking communities out of crisis and providing substantial revenue to local government.”

The GEA National Geothermal Summit discussed the outlook for Washington D.C. and the western states, building new transmission projects in the west, new renewable energy policy developments in California, and moving geothermal forward on public lands. Panelists included John Wellinghoff, Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC); Karen Edson, Vice President, Policy and Client Services, CAISO; Kathleen Benedetto, Legislative Staff, House Subcommittee on Energy & Mineral Resources; and V. John White, Executive Director, Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies (CEERT).

Paul Thomsen, GEA Board President and Director for Ormat Technologies, Inc., headquartered in Reno, Nev., said, “This summit created the foundation for state and national dialogues that will continue to educate agencies, utilities, developers and others as to the important role this industry will play as the industry continues to move forward. We expect there will be follow up on almost every critical issue that was raised. We see real dialogue between state officials to get the job done.”

Stoel Rives LLP, also a gold level sponsor for the Summit, is uniquely connected with and involved in renewable energy in general and geothermal energy in particular. “The first National Geothermal Summit in Reno was a tremendous success and very valuable for the industry,” said John McKinsey, Partner, Stoel Rives, LLP. “Stakeholders from all aspects of the renewable energy industry met and truly advanced the agenda of how important baseload, sustainable geothermal power is in helping the United States find balance in its electricity supply while achieving energy independence.”

An Expo Hall featured government agencies, universities and leading geothermal developers from the growing geothermal industry including: Allied Washoe Petroleum; Arizona Geological Survey; Building and Construction Trades Council No. NV; Bureau of Land Management; City of Reno; Ecology and Environment, Inc.; EMPSi; GE Power & Water; Geothermal Development Associates; Helidyne; Horizon Well Logging; JBR Environmental Consultants; Laborer’s Union Local 169; National Geothermal Academy, Nevada Division of Minerals; Nevada Geothermal Power; Pratt & Whitney Power Systems; Rain for Rent; Rockwell Automation; Sierra Environmental Monitoring; SpecTIR; Stoel Rives LLP; TAS Energy Inc.; ThermaSource; Truckee Meadows Community College; U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Technology Program; Western Cultural Research Management, Inc. (WCRM); Western Environmental Testing Laboratory (WetLab).

Looks like it was a good conference. And for any of you familiar with the needs of wind and solar energy in the policy arena, you can see that geothermal is in the same boat as those clean energy options. It has a lot to offer (clearly, on the job front, it beats fossil fuels!), but it needs policy stability.

What will bring about stability and security and allow geothermal to expand? The same things that will do so for solar and wind — a national clean energy and climate change bill; a national renewable energy standard (RES); fewer crazies in political power. Let’s hope we can get all of those soon.

Image via Gretar Ívarsson, geologist at Nesjavellir

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Zachary Shahan

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