DOE Launches Geothermal Regulatory Roadmap For Project Developers

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Traveling through the complex system of federal and state regulations to secure project approvals is one of the biggest challenges facing geothermal power developers – but not if they’ve got a map outlining every twist and turn.

DOE Geothermal Regulatory Roadmap
Geothermal regulatory roadmap image via US DOE

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has done just that by creating an online geothermal regulatory roadmap to help project developers anticipate and meet  government regulatory requirements and streamline deployment of new geothermal capacity.

If all goes as planned, DOE’s roadmap will facilitate collaboration between federal and state agencies, speed up the review process for proposed projects, and increase efficient and responsible regulatory evaluation.

One-Stop-Shopping For Project Developers

Industry stakeholders identified the lengthy permitting timeline facing potential projects as a major barrier to expanding geothermal generation in a 2011 DOE report. Considering the potential of geothermal energy as an emission-free baseload power source, DOE wisely decided it was time to take action.

DOE and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) partnered with the Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and US Forest Service to convene permitting officials from all levels of government. This work group identified regulatory wrong turns and dead ends, and formed the basis for roadmap development.

Geothermal Regulatory Flowchart
Geothermal regulatory flowchart image via US DOE

The roadmap features flowcharts addressing all potential federal and state regulatory requirements for developing new geothermal power – from developing land use and leasing plans, to drilling exploratory wells, and building an actual power plant.

Links to permit applications, government regulations and policies, and supporting documents are also contained within the resource, providing one-stop-shopping for virtually any type of project located in most of America’s geothermal hotspots.

First Stop On The Way To A Geothermal Future

While DOE’s roadmap doesn’t include stops in every state, it begins the journey by focusing on the ones with the largest geothermal potential. The first stage includes information on Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah. Expanded information for Colorado and Texas is slated for completion during fiscal year 2013, and future expansion will include information down to the county level.

The geothermal regulatory roadmap is part of DOE’s plan to accelerate development of 30GW of new hydrothermal energy at a cost of 6 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) by 2020, lower the cost of enhanced geothermal to 6 cents/kWh by 2030, and speed development of 100GW of enhanced geothermal power by 2050.

Geothermal power plant
Geothermal power plant image via Shutterstock

If the roadmap works as planned, it could help geothermal grow exponentially as a share of America’s renewable energy future. 3,386MW of geothermal power is currently installed in the US, but roughly 5,500MW of new capacity is currently under development, and up to 2,600MW could come online in the next decade, according to the Geothermal Energy Association’s 2013 Annual Report.

That’s a lot of clean energy capacity – provided the geothermal project developers don’t get lost along the way.

For more information on the regulatory roadmap and an overview of the flowchart, narrative, and link features, check out this helpful NREL video:[youtube]

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