Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Geothermal energy in most places is an expensive dead end. But like the masked baddie in a low budget horror flick, it won’t stay in its grave, it keeps returning to the political agenda.
The renewable energy source Democrats hope will break out
Climate advocates and lawmakers believe the $320 billion in tax incentives promoting renewables like geothermal will remain mostly unchanged.
01/17/2022 07:00 AM EST
Backers in Congress included geothermal energy in the bipartisan infrastructure package passed last fall that devoted $84 million for demonstration projects. And supporters say the hundreds of billions of dollars in tax incentives and research funding in the Build Back Better Act could help propel it into the mainstream.
“If our focus is on creating good-paying jobs, growing the economy, and addressing the climate crisis, this is a perfect example of why we need this type of tax credit for geothermal, which is a benefit to clean energy, no question about it, but across the country,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto told POLITICO.
“We support geothermal energy as one of the good alternatives out there as far as fulfilling a green or renewable portfolio,” said LaMalfa, whose northern California district is a hot spot for geothermal energy. “Being contained in a bill like this that is looking doomed is too bad. I would rather see it in a separate bill, in a separate energy bill, that would be more positive instead of one of this gigantic size that is running into big problems over the Senate side.”
According to the Energy Information Administration, the initial cost for a geothermal energy field and power plant is about $2,500 per kilowatt, far more expensive than solar and wind energy, which have benefited from supportive federal and state policies and financial incentives that have driven down production costs.In 2019, the average cost for onshore wind generators was $1,391 per kilowatt, while solar energy averaged at $1,796 per kilowatt.
“If geothermal were to become affordable, then there’s tremendous potential for it to be adopted for electricity generation,” said Daniel Shawhan, a fellow with Resources for the Future, a nonprofit group that conducts research on clean energy. “It really could provide a large portion of the world’s energy. And in particular, it could be the missing piece in affordably [and] inexpensively achieving [a] net-zero emissions economy,” he added.
Possibly the strongest argument for greater adoption of geothermal systems is that power plants can produce energy around the clock since the heat in the earth’s core is available 24/7, unlike its wind and solar companions.
…Read more: https://www.politico.com/news/2022/01/17/democrats-biden-clean-energy-527175
The allure is obvious – a form of renewable energy which produces 24×7, without needing a big reservoir. There are even places where geothermal works – places with ideal conditions, with heat sources close to the surface for easy access, low content of water soluble minerals to prevent blocking of cracks between the rocks, and ideal rock chemistry and physical properties. But attempts to expand the range of suitable geothermal power sources outside this small set of ideal niches have to date encountered insurmountable problems.