News

Californian geothermal development hurdles

Alexander Richter Alexander Richter 6 Feb 2009

In a new piece in a blog, Karl Gawell the executive Director of the U.S. Geothermal Energy Association, looks at the question of "Why not more geothermal projects move forward in California?".

In a new piece in a blog, Karl Gawell the executive Director of the U.S. Geothermal Energy Association, looks at the question of “Why not more geothermal projects move forward in California?”.

He then explains that the discussion wasn´t then about “investment problems, the slow economy, or the need to develop new technologies”, the main points discussed were that “leases and permits are simply not being issued.”

So while a company might be in the position of having secured a lease from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM, for leased land in federal hand), that doesn’t mean it is easy to receive the necessary drilling permit. The waiting period for those permits simply is too long. Another issue, so Karl Gawell, are interest groups and the example he describes on Truckhaven. There, he writes “leases have yet to be issued, let alone subsequent permits approved. The problem is opposition to the project from recreational off-road vehicle users who like to drive their four-wheel-drive vehicles around the area. The project is delayed while the BLM seeks to assuage their concerns.” While this seems to be an issue not to be understood, it is the case for many projects. The balancing of different interest from various groups. On the one hand the nation needs renewable base load power, on the other hand interest groups from various angles hinder that development.

With most of the geothermal resources based on federal land the leasing process through the BLM is an extremely important element and has recently seen some improvements through the Programmatic Geothermal Environmental Impact Statement of BLM and the U.S. Forest Service.

But the main issue are bureaucratic hurdles, a federal lease issued doesn’t automatically mean that it fulfills state laws on environmental impact. So this has to be seen in a bigger picture involving all necessary players right from the beginning.

Source: Karl Gawell (GEA) in “The Guzzler” blog