Geothermal Power Blog

I have added a link to the sidebar to the Geothermal Power Blog, a comprehensive resource dealing with the subject of geothermal power.

The United States generates only .5% of it’s electricity from Geothermal Energy, and given the widespread existence of generous geothermal resources in the western United States, this is tragic.

However, the rising cost of fossil fuels and improvements in drilling technology have brought the cost of geothermal into the range of being competitive in the electricity generation market. Wind Power exploded and continues to grow after it became economically viable, and I expect we’ll see a similar growth in geothermal energy as a result.

However, I am troubled that we are still building coal fired power plants in spite of the fact that NO fossil fuel creates more carbon dioxide per unit of energy generated than coal. In addition to contributing to global warming, just visit any place where coal is the primary source of electricity. Go outside the town and look up on a cloudless day, the sky isn’t blue, it’s brown. Look at all the buildings in the area, they’ll all have a coat of soot. Look at the people, they all look prematurely aged. Coal burning distributes mercury, and radioactive elements into the environment.

I heard a new coal fired plant is planned for Washington State to be operational by 2014. Given the ample geothermal and wind resources present in this state, this is insanity.

2 thoughts on “Geothermal Power Blog

  1. You raise some valid points, but a lot of investment and time will be needed to reach your goals of wind and geothermal displacing electricity generated by fossil fuel. But I think the situation is a bit more complex than you paint it.

    I assume you’re talking here about the 600-700 MW integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) project Wallula Resource Recovery plans for the Wallula area. (I’ve seen online estimates of 2013, not 2014.)

    It’s a bottom-line matter, not insanity, for those wanting to build it. Several industry-government-university consortiums are working to solve the CO2 sequestration problem–disposing of emissions somehow. In Washington, the approach being tested is getting the emissions to geochemically bond to the underlying basalt.

    If this is solved, then the IGCC plant will likely go forward. If not, then by state law it won’t be allowed to operate.

    To the investors in the project–which includes the parent company of California utility Southern California Edison–the odds are good enough, and the payoff worth it.

    But others think solving sequestration by 2014, if ever, is “optimistic,” to put it politely. Those holding this view include the state’s other IGCC developer, Energy Northwest, which has sidelined its project over this issue.

    Now, as to wind, the state’s transmission lines are nearly full to bursting, and wind, which blows only 30 percent of the time on average, wastes the capacity set aside for it the other 70 percent. Other kinds of power generation have to take up this slack, and doing this–necessary to meet electricity demand and keep the grid from crashing–is costly. Wind is only part of the answer. New transmission lines are another.

    Geothermal in the state is unproven. Sure, there are volcanoes, but they’re in national parks, which are, by law, off limits to geothermal development.

    Beyond park perimeters, visible signs of geothermal resources are hard to find. The generally high rainfall is thought to sweep away any “signals.” So, we need to get after looking for it. With the state’s new renewables standard, and with power prices climbing, this should soon start to happen, if it hasn’t already.

  2. First, the transmission lines DO need a major overhaul, no question about that, and it’s something I’ve been advocating for some time.

    Really, we should switch to DC high voltage transmission at the very least. Besides boosting capacity and reducing losses significantly, it also eliminates transmission line susceptibility to damage by space weather.

    A big benefit is that doing so doesn’t require any changes to the lines themselves, just the terminating equipment at either end.

    It eliminates radiative losses. On average, losses are cut by 68% on overhead transmission lines, and depending upon configuration, power transmission capacity is increased to between 1.5 and 3.5 times using the SAME wire and insulators.

    Given that wind power for using large turbines has now dropped to around 2.6 cents / KwH verses 4.6 cents / KwH for carbon sequestered coal generated power, and that you never have to purchase fuel for wind and the maintenance is low, and Washington state has a ridge just east of Yakima with excellent wind conditions, the savings would more than pay for the cost of the terminal equipment needed to enhance transmission capacity and we’d get the added benefit of not having mercury, uranium, and other toxic wastes rained down upon us.

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