Sens. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore. introduced a bill Thursday to encourage geothermal energy production on public lands.
Risch, an Idaho Republican and Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, reintroduced the Geothermal Production Expansion Act, which prevents speculative bidders from driving up the price of leases for geothermal projects. The bill streamlines the federal geothermal leasing program by allowing for the non-competitive leasing of a limited amount of federal land at fair market value to spur the expansion of geothermal energy on already-identified hot spots.
The Bureau of Land Management, which manages geothermal projects on federal land under lease agreements, estimates about 250 million acres of federal land contains geothermal power potential. Geothermal energy projects that are producing power under the BLM’s management make up about half of the total geothermal generating capacity in the United States.
“Reliable and lower-cost energy is the backbone of any successful economy and must be expanded to meet future needs,” Risch said. “In Idaho and much of the West, geothermal energy is a largely untapped source of clean energy. This bill encourages its development and expansion by removing a layer of red tape that holds up production at geothermal facilities.”
Idaho and Oregon have the combined potential to produce at least 1,400 megawatts of electricity from geothermal resources — enough energy to power more than a million homes.
“Geysers, volcanoes and hot springs — like Oregon’s own Neal Hot Springs — are reservoirs of the Earth’s enormous clean energy potential,” Wyden said. “By making these ‘hot spots’ available to only serious developers, this bill protects taxpayer dollars and prevents speculators from holding hostage the enormous possibilities of geothermal energy.”
U.S. Geothermal, based in Boise, operates geothermal power projects in both states. Its Neal Hot Springs Plant in Eastern Oregon produces power for Idaho Power.
“We thank Senators Wyden and Risch for their continued strong support of the geothermal industry with their introduction of the Geothermal Production Expansion Act,” said Doug Glaspey, the company’s president and COO. “This is an important piece that improves the federal leasing system and will help geothermal developers move projects toward production.”