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Home > Feature Articles > Alternative Energy Solutions > Geothermal and Water Alternative Energy Sources

Geothermal Energy Applications Coming to California from Iceland

California is the leading source of geothermal energy production in the world...but applications need expanding.

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Despite being blessed with large geothermal resources, California gets only about 5% of its power from geothermal plants. That percentage will have to grow substantially if the state is to reach its 20% renewable-energy goal. One new area being tapped is geothermal heat that is used to produce electricity.

Iceland America Energy in Los Angeles

There's nothing like bringing in experienced experts to kick off a more productive approach to this potential energy growth industry. The Honorable Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, President of Iceland visited Los Angeles to formally open the headquarters of an Icelandic-American geothermal energy company in downtown Los Angeles. Iceland America Energy is the company that will lead Iceland's geothermal push in North America.

Curt Robinson, executive director of the Geothermal Resources Council, a nonprofit educational and scientific group based in Davis, Calif. appreciates the unique perspective Iceland's experience with geothermal will bring to the California geothermal journey. "Iceland has been using geothermal in applied ways for several decades, very successfully. . . they have a fully developed energy economy and we don't." Iceland has already accomplished that and more, albeit on a much smaller scale. The country is almost completely powered from renewable sources -- 73.4% of it hydropower and 26.5% geothermal.

California is the World's Largest Geothermal Producer

Geothermal power plants, whether in Iceland or California, collect the underground energy in the form of hot brine or steam, then use it to run electricity-generating turbines or pipe it directly to heat buildings. Last year, Icelandic geothermal plants produced a paltry sum of energy compared to the more than 13,000 gigawatt-hours produced in 2006 from the geothermal plants in California, which still reigns as the world's largest producer of that type of renewable power.

Iceland America Energy Brings Geothermal Applications Expertise

But Iceland has a wide variety of applications for its geothermal wealth. Only 28% of Iceland's geothermal energy is used to create electricity. Most of the hot brine gets piped long distances to heat homes and businesses. Some is used by greenhouses, fish farms, swimming pools and industry to heat water or dry products.

Iceland America Energy signed a contract with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in 2006 to provide the San Francisco-based utility with 49 megawatts of power from a geothermal plant to be built near Truckhaven in Imperial County. The California Energy Commission invested $700,000 as a grant to help fund the first well, which will be drilled in October 2007. The plant, which is expected to provide enough power to serve nearly 40,000 homes, is slated to open in 2010.

Imperial Valley, Bakersfield and San Francisco Geothermal Hotspots

The Imperial Valley and Bakersfield are expected to be productive geothermal sources. California is also home to one of the world's largest geothermal reservoirs just north of San Francisco at the Geysers, which naturally generates steam from hot rock formations deep underground. It has reliably produced power in California for years.

Magnus Johannesson, CEO of Iceland America Energy, said the company is working toward a 35-megawatt contract with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and a project to use geothermal energy to heat homes and buildings in Mammoth Lake.

LA Times

Geothermal Center

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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