Geothermal is kind of the middle child of California renewable energy. It's dependable, reliably putting around 950 megawatts into the state's grid. It does so day in, day out, as its older sibling wind overachieves and then slacks off and kid sibling solar goes to sleep early each night. It even wins awards on the global scene. But does anyone ever tell geothermal it's special? Does anyone really appreciate geothermal?
The answer is yes, and those people will be getting together next week in Sacramento for the second annual National Geothermal Summit, convened by the Geothermal Energy Association.
In attendance will be agency representatives, elected officials -- including V. Manuel Perez, California Assemblymember whose 80th Assembly District includes the Salton Basin geothermal district -- utility executives and people from the geothermal industry.
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Topics to be discussed include reducing risk of geothermal exploration and drilling; industry relations with utilities; the planning, permitting, and environmental assessment process (with the inevitable discussions about how to "streamline" said environmental assessment); and increasing geothermal incentives.
Though geothermal is a reliable source of just under a gigawatt of base load power in California, solar and wind are growing much more quickly. Wind can feed more than three times as much power into California's grid as geothermal does for most of the day -- it does slacken a bit in the afternoon across the state -- and solar is set to overtake geothermal in daily peak production as well.
Not that geothermal isn't getting some boosts. The 92 megawatt Heber geothermal plant in Imperial County is about to get a 10-megawatt boost as it adds four new geothermal wells. And Assembly Member Perez is shepherding a piece of legislation through Sacramento, Assembly Bill 2205, that would make it easier for geothermal firms and chemicals companies to perform closed-loop recycling of the lithium Imperial geothermal plants find dissolved in their brine. If the bill passes, geothermal plants may find an additional source of income in what is now considered a toxic liability, as lithium is in high demand for high-performance rechargeable batteries and other high-tech applications.
The second annual National Geothermal Summit will take place at the Sacramento Hyatt Regency on August 7 and 8.
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