Two Geothermal Energy Bills Reintroduced in Senate

Two bills seeking to rapidly expand geothermal energy resources in the U.S. were reintroduced in the Senate last week.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced the Geothermal Production Expansion Act (S.363), a bill that could allow noncompetitive leasing for geothermal developers on lands near proven geothermal resources. "The reason for this legislation is to allow the rapid expansion of already identified geothermal resources without the additional delays of competitive leasing and without opening up those adjacent properties to speculative bidders who have no interest in actually developing the resource, only in extracting as much money as they can from the existing geothermal developer,” Wyden said.

The bill is not a "giveaway" at taxpayer expense, he said, however. "The bill limits the amount of adjacent Federal land that can be leased to 640 acres. This lease on Federal land must be acquired at fair-market value. The bill also requires the lease holder to pay the higher annual rental rate associated with competitive leases even though this new parcel is not being competitively leased. Again, the purpose of this higher rental rate is to ensure that taxpayers will get the revenue due to them from the use of their public lands."

Sen. John Tester (D-Mont.) reintroduced The Geothermal Exploration and Technology Act (S. 362), a bill that promotes mapping and development of U.S. geothermal resources by establishing a direct loan program for high-risk geothermal exploration wells. The bill also seeks to amend the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to improve geothermal energy technology and demonstrate the use of geothermal energy in large-scale thermal applications.

Both bills were approved by the Senate Energy Committee in the last Congress but saw no action on the floor. Wyden’s bill is cosponsored by Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), James Risch (R-Idaho), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), and Jeff Merkeley (D-Ore.).

The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) notes that geothermal capacity in the U.S. was 147.05 MW at the end of 2012. New scientific and technological advancements such as enhanced geothermal systems are offering opportunities to produce power from Hawaii and Alaska to Texas and the Gulf States, it said.

Sources: POWERnews, Sen. Wyden, GEA

—Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine)