Geothermal primed to help California reduce GHG emissions


At the same time California has implemented Assembly Bill 32 and launched its landmark cap-and-trade program requiring the state's heaviest polluters, including fossil-fuel power plants and oil refineries, to pay for carbon emissions permits, the Geothermal Energy Association has released a report detailing greenhouse gas emissions as they relate to geothermal with a focus on California.

Gould, in California, is part of the Heber Complex. The total output of the Heber Complex is approximately 92 MW. Credit: GEA

Natural gas and coal plants produce considerably more GHG emissions than geothermal plants, and will be greatly affected by California's cap on such emissions. As prices increase for coal and natural gas, clean energy alternatives such as geothermal will offer a more affordable energy option. Geothermal is a critical piece of a complete energy suite of technologies, offering baseload power as a counterpart to intermittent technologies such as wind and solar, according to GEA.

Geothermal power plant emissions arise primarily from existing geothermal resource gases rather than from the actual power generation process. According to the report, an average geothermal power plant emits about 5 percent of the carbon dioxide, 1 percent of the sulfur dioxide, and less than 1 percent of the nitrous oxide emitted by a coal-fired plant of equal size.

As the largest producer of renewable power in California, geothermal is primed for significant growth in the state. The GEA report notes that geothermal power plants offer an environmentally friendly option to conventional fossil fuel power plants as California prepares itself to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020.

"This ambitious goal will serve to mitigate global climate change and increase America's energy security, and geothermal is poised to provide the Golden State with the roadmap to meet this target," said GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell. "California's program should serve as a model for other states and the federal government as we seek energy independence, job growth and a cleaner, safer environment for future generations."

For more:
- see the report

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