Geothermal leaders: Don’t overlook us

Ratepayers, policy makers and utilities continue to overlook geothermal energy, a renewable power resource with that can provide clean, consistent electricity, geothermal industry leaders said at an annual gathering in Nevada this week.

Attendees of the third National Geothermal Summit said they focused on the advantages of geothermal energy, which uses underground heat to produce energy. They argued that geothermal solutions are being snubbed in favor of wind and solar projects that cannot be relied on for continuous power.

And geothermal energy has been overlooked even though it competes with other forms of energy on costs, according to the U.S. Energy Information Adminsitation.

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The total cost per megawatt-hour of geothermal energy, which does not rely on obtaining fuels with uncertain pricing, is about $89.60, according to an estimate of levelized costs by the agency. That is far lower than some other sources of energy, which are about $100.10 per megawatt-hour for an average coal plant, $108.40 for an advanced nuclear plant, or $130.30 for a conventional natural gas-fired turbine, according to the agency.

Some types of combined-cycle natural gas turbine systems can have lower overall costs, as low as $65.60, in large part because of today’s low natural gas prices, according to EIA estimates.

But geothermal energy resources take time to develop, as many as 10 years to drill wells and build plants that could use underground heat to produce power, said Halley Dickey, director of geothermal of Houston-based TAS Energy.

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That development time is worth it, however, given the potential of long-term, consistent energy, said Dickey, who was at the summit in Nevada.

“Geothermal is probably the world’s best renewable, because it’s a baseload technology,” Dickey said. “It can be available 24/7, 365 (days a year), so it’s a direct replacement for coal” and other fossil fuel-energy sources, he said.