Geothermal Energy: An Investment In the Future
Whiskey and Gunpowder Geothermal Energy Report
We have found the company that is ready to lead the way on this exciting new energy technology. The company is one of the world’s leading vertically integrated companies in the field of geothermal energy. Geothermal energy is one of the cleanest, most abundant sources of energy on the planet and now is the time to know as much as possible about this great new investment. This companies technologies and its subsidiaries engage in the geothermal and recovered energy power business. Before we get into the details of this business, lets take a closer look at what geothermal energy really is.
Geothermal Energy -The Basics
When you think about a useful energy source, you want to think about how the potential energy of any substance is converted into heat energy. For example, coal is known as the “rock that burns”. Gasoline provides energy to your car by combusting in the cylinders of your engine via the rapid, explosive release of heat when the gasoline is sparked. Nuclear power produces energy when the radioactive rods in a nuclear pile decay and give off heat, which then is used to raise the temperature of water or some other liquid substance. The bottom line is that when we are looking for energy sources, we are basically looking for ways of obtaining heat energy in some form or another.
Geothermal energy is the next part of the energy industry we’ve found that is able to produce heat. Extracting stored heat energy from the crust of the Earth produces geothermal energy. It is the energy contained in the in the hot rocks, and the hot fluids that fill the fractures and pores within the rocks, of the Earth’s crust. Under the right conditions, geothermal energy can be utilized to generate electricity, and this is why we are interested.
Geological History of Geothermal Energy
According to thermodynamic calculations performed by many a bleary-eyed graduate student over the decades, if the Earth had simply “cooled” from a molten state, it would have become a completely solid mass of iron and rock within a few hundred million years of its formation. But Earth has been an active, dynamic planet for nearly 4.5 billion years, so something must be going on deep inside to keep the planet hot.
It gets so hot down within the Earth that much so-called “rock” is in a molten state, which we observe directly when some of that molten material erupts and forms volcanoes or mid-ocean ridges. In most other areas of the Earth, this heat reaches the surface in a very diffuse state. Due to a variety of geological processes, relatively shallow geothermal resources underlie some areas of the Earth, including substantial portions of many western U.S. states, with much energy potential. Here is a depiction, called the U.S. geothermal resource map, prepared by the U.S. Department of Energy. (See map below)
The geothermal resource map of the U.S. shows the estimated subterranean temperatures at a depth of 6 kilometers (or just under 20,000 feet), which is considered relatively near the surface. As the map makes clear, essentially all of the U.S. has some form of available, near-surface geothermal potential.
The uses to which these geothermal resources can be put are controlled by temperature. The highest temperature resources are generally used only for electric power generation. Current U.S. geothermal electric power generation totals approximately 2,800 megawatts (MW), or about the same as five large nuclear power plants. I am not going to say that geothermal energy is infinite in scale, but the heat sources within the Earth are immense, and a well-managed program has the potential to be operational for many decades, if not centuries.
Geothermal Energy Business
Now that we have looked at the basic geology of geothermal energy, let’s look at the business and policy sides of things. First, you should understand that extracting the Earth’s heat and selling geothermal energy is subject to the same regulatory structures as are almost all other energy generation and transmission entities in the country. So the 50 state-level public utility commissions (PUCs) control much of the destinies for geothermal producers.
There is plenty of good news for geothermal energy. Once a plant is up and running, geothermal energy is quite reliable. Geothermal energy plants offer a continuously available (24/7) base-load power source, with historic reliabilities in excess of 90%, which is comparable to the reliability of many nuclear plants. Compare this with wind-generated power with 25-40% reliability (the wind does not always blow when you need it), or solar-generated power with 22-35% reliability (the sun sets each night, among other drawbacks). And reliability is a critical issue in terms of operations, because plant owners usually bear the risk of getting charged back by utility customers for what is called shortfall energy, meaning the power that a utility has to go out and purchase on spot market if the designated source is not operating on schedule or up to capacity or promised load.
There is more good news for geothermal energy, in the form of policy support.
Geothermal energy does not deplete like an oil or natural gas deposit. Many hot springs of the world have been bubbling warm water or steam since prehistoric times. So geothermal energy is considered a renewable form of energy production, and in our own era, it benefits from the renewable energy “production tax credit.” This tax credit has been extended by the U.S. Congress through 2008, and is expected to receive further extensions in the future. The production tax credit, plus five-year depreciation schedules, means that there is an effective U.S. government subsidy of over 63% of the capital cost of renewable energy projects. (Think of it as spending dollars that cost only 37 cents.) So right away, renewable energy projects, and geothermal energy projects in particular, are beneficiaries of significant investment tax breaks that would make any oilman jealous. And now on to the company that could lead this new industry.
Additional Geothermal Energy Resources:
Geothermal Power -Wikipedia
Geothermal Energy -Renewable Energy Acess.com
Geothermal Energy -U.S. Department of Energy
The Geothermal Energy Story -Energy Story