Developing America’s Geothermal Potential

In 1960, Union Oil of California developed the largest geothermal power plant in the world. This plant is located in northern California and is still the producing clean, renewable energy. Currently, the United States has operating, geothermal capacity of approximately, 3,800 MW. According the Department of Energy (DOE), the United States has approximately 100,000 MW of undeveloped geothermal energy potential.

The DOE has recently announced it will provide $14.5 million in funding to advance geothermal energy development in the United States.  The greatest challenge and expense in a geothermal project is drilling the wells into the igneous and metamorphic rocks and completing the wells to produce economic quantities of steam. The geothermal energy research will focus on the following:

  1. Reducing delays in drilling operations like lost circulation, stuck pipe, unstable wellbores, and other issues that take time away from deepening the hole.
  2. Innovative drilling technologies that improve the rates of penetration for drilling geothermal wells.
  3. Innovative approaches to accelerate the transfer of geothermal drilling and related technologies from the laboratory to the geothermal industry.

The DOE has made similar energy research investments in nuclear, wind, solar, coal, natural gas and oil. The goal of these investments is to reduce America’s dependence on imported oil. Geothermal is a clean, renewable energy that is not dependent on the weather, like solar or wind energy. In my opinion, this is tax dollars well spent.

The US Geological Survey rates Oregon, Nevada and California as the three states with the greatest geothermal potential in America.  Geothermal energy could provide clean, affordable power and jobs to Oregon. However, Oregon’s legislators have done little to encourage the development of geothermal or any renewable energy in the state. Governor Kate Brown, please explain why.

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