Posts Tagged ‘Geothermal vs Coal’

What Will it Take for Geothermal to be Cheaper than Coal


According to a new study from NYU, it would take about three billion dollars of DOE investment to get the costs of geothermal down to the cost of coal. That does seem like a fairly steep price when geothermal power seems so very free. But getting enough heat out of the ground to power turbines is no simple affair.

FUENTE – Ecogeek – 21/07/09

The study also found that previous DOE investments in geothermal provided higher returns in price drops and efficiency increases than investment in any other renewable resource.

There’s a sense in the energy industry that geothermal is already a mature technology and that, unfortunately, it’s never going to be practical on a large scale. However, the NYU study is pointing out that this is simply not true. New techniques are hitting geothermal from every angle. Some people are working on getting more heat out of geothermal wells, others are making electricity with cooler rocks while a third group of people are creating new ways to reach hot rocks with less money.

The study also determined (though we’re not quite clear on how) that geothermal could get down to four cents per kilowatt hour with only $3 B of investment from the DOE. This seems rather fishy to me. But whether or not it will get down to grid parity, more focus on geothermal is definitely needed.

Author: H. Green


Can Geothermal Power Compete with Coal on Price?


Although the environmental benefits of burning less fossil fuel by using renewable sources of energy—such as geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind—are clear, there’s been a serious roadblock in their adoption: cost per kilowatt-hour.


FUENTE – ScientificAmerican – 02/03/09

That barrier may be opening, however—at least for one of these sources. Two recent reports, among others, suggest that geothermal may actually be cheaper than every other source, including coal. Geothermal power plants work by pumping hot water from deep beneath Earth’s surface, which can either be used to turn steam turbines directly or to heat a second, more volatile liquid such as isobutane (which then turns a steam turbine).

Combine a new U.S. president pushing a stimulus package that includes $28 billion in direct subsidies for renewable energy with another $13 billion for research and development, and the picture for renewable energy—geothermal power among the options—is brightening. The newest report, from international investment bank Credit Suisse, says geothermal power costs 3.6 cents per kilowatt-hour, versus 5.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for coal.


That does not mean companies are rushing to build geothermal plants: There are a number of assumptions in the geothermal figure. First, there are the tax incentives, which save about 1.9 cents per kilowatt-hour. Those won’t necessarily last forever, however—although the stimulus bill extended them through 2013.

Second, the Credit Suisse analysis relied on what is called the “levelized [sic] cost of energy,” or the total cost to produce a given unit of energy. Embedded within this figure is an assumption that the money to build a new geothermal plant is available at reasonable interest rates—on the order of 8 percent.

In today’s economic climate, that just isn’t the case. “In general, there is financing out there for geothermal, but it’s difficult to get and it’s expensive,” Geothermal Energy Association director Karl Gawell told recently. “You have to have a really premium project to get even credit card interest rates.”

That means very high up-front costs. As a result, companies are more likely to spend money on things with lower front-end costs, like natural gas–powered plants, which are cheap to build but relatively expensive to operate because of the cost of the fuel needed to run them.

“Natural gas is popular for this reason,” says Kevin Kitz, an engineer at Boise, Idaho–based U.S. Geothermal, Inc, which owns and operates three geothermal sites. “It has a low capital cost, and even if you project cost of natural gas to be high in future, if you use a high [interest rate in your model] that doesn’t matter very much.”

Natural gas, which came in at 5.2 cents per kilowatt-hour in the analysis, is also popular because it can be deployed anywhere, whereas only 13 U.S. states have identified geothermal resources. Although this limits the scalability of geothermal power, a 2008 survey by the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the U.S. possesses 40,000 megawatts of geothermal energy that could be exploited using today’s technology. (For comparison, the average coal-fired power plant in the U.S. has a capacity of more than 500 MW.)


(read full article)


Author: C. Mims