Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Dec 03

Sierra Geothermal Power: CEO Interview

Posted in Energy Industry | Geothermal Energy

Sierra Geothermal Living in Vancouver, where a lot of small mining companies have set up their headquarters, I was quite shocked to stumble upon a large number of geothermal energy companies located in the same amazing city. I set out to try to learn a little bit more about geothermal energy. After compiling some statistics I wasn’t sure what to do next. The ground-breaking study by M.I.T. answered most, if not all, of the questions anyone had about the current state of geothermal energy, and its present and future impact. I was unsure what additional statistics needed to be published.

Binary System

Binary System

What emerged from this dilemma was my curiosity about the individual companies that are paving the alternative energy road. These courageous companies are leaders in an industry with mounds of potential, but many have yet truly capitalized on this enormous potential, but things are drastically changing. I decided that getting in contact with someone who worked for a geothermal energy company was the next rational step on my journey. I made a few phone calls, sent out a few emails and crossed my fingers in the hopes that I would get a response or two which would help me on my quest to talk with someone on the “inside”. These are business people who are responsible to their shareholders, so finding someone, anyone, who would take time out of their schedule to speak with me, was perhaps a little too much to ask.

To my astonishment the CEO of Sierra Geothermal Power Corp., Gary Thompson, phoned me after being forwarded my email through a chain of people. He was more than willing, eager actually, to answer my questions. I quickly discovered that Gary was a man dedicated to expanding public knowledge and understanding of alternative energy. The human factor had arrived.

Facts about Sierra Geothermal

  • 17 different properties in their possession encompassing Over 88,000 acres of land.
  • Potential to produce over 400 MW of power.
  • Sierra Geothermal uses binary plant technology.
  • Stock located on the TSX-V with the symbol “SRA”

Geothermal Chart

Geothermal Statistics

Gary R. Thompson, President & CEO

Gary holds a B.Sc. Honors Degree in Geology from the University of British Columbia. He has more than twenty years experience in mineral exploration, including 5 years in oil and gas. His previous experience includes positions with Encana Corporation, NovaGold Resources and Newmont. Gary has been involved in geothermal exploration for over 7 years.

Interview Q&A

Rob Ludvig

: Why does Vancouver, BC have such a concentration of geothermal power companies?

Gary Thompson

: Vancouver is a resource town full of geo-talent whom know resource development and how.

Rob

: What 3 compelling advantages does geothermal energy have compared to other forms of alternative energy?

Gary

: Geothermal is baseload IE: plants run 24-7-365 or at 95% capacity factor, unlike wind which operates 30% and solar 18%, geothermal plants have the smallest footprint of any power plant, the potential is untapped providing huge opportunity, contrary to what people tell you there is enormous geothermal potential.

Rob

: How do geothermal energy companies respond to critics that say;

A) High installation costs will scare off potential buyers.

Gary

: Utilities love geothermal because it is the most reliable source of power. Get your facts correct, on a levelized cost of power, geothermal is one of the cheapest sources of power, they do have high up front cost to get feasibility that part is correct, but over the term of the power contract they are very cost competitive with conventional power plants without green house gas emissions, pollution or volatile fuel costs.

B) Geothermal mining can only be achieved in limited parts of the world.

Gary

: Not completely true, yes the near term easy projects are limited in location, the definition of geothermal is the “earth’s heat” and the earth is a huge ball of energy. As we fund research and development into this sector we will see cost decrease and locations that could be developed increase.

Rob

: Please address any other criticism of geothermal energy that you feel passionate about.

Gary

: Geothermal is clean, renewable, sustainable and cost competitive.

Rob

: The United States has seen a steady growth in the amount of geothermal electricity produced over the last decade. In the next 10 years what percentage of the total electrical output in America will come from geothermal technologies and what strategy is needed to get there?

Gary

: Currently the US produces 3000MW or 0.003% from geothermal, current estimates suggest the USA could double to quadruple output from geothermal in ten years. The M.I.T. study combined with the US Geological Survey Study suggests geothermal could account for up to 20% of the electrical mix of the USA.

Rob

: What additional support is needed to increase public awareness and acceptance of geothermal technologies?

Gary

: Government incentives, favorable policy to rapidly deploy capital into geothermal which will decrease our reliance on fossil fuels and push our society into a clean & sustainable economy.

Rob

: Thank you, Gary

Gary

: You’re welcome

Conclusion

Speaking with a CEO of a geothermal energy company was a new experience for me, and one that I cherish. Adding a human factor to the equation changed a lot of things for me, the key being that these are not just energy companies, but energy companies with a conscience.

Author: Rob Ludvig of Green Business

  • Steve Watton

    Great article, thank you.

    Question… Mr. Thompson told you that geothermal energy is big in Vancouver because there are a lot of well-trained people there who can contribute. But are those people there because Vancouver is a good place to take advantage of a good geothermal situation? Isn’t Vancouver essentially on the “ring of fire” around the Pacific? Doesn’t that make geothermal energy easier to tap in such a place?

    If we could get well-trained people here in Connecticut, what – from the technical standpoint – would be the real hurdles to getting geothermal energy to work? Despite the obvious advantages, would the initial capital costs deter investors (or even governments) from committing to the long-term benefits?

    I have to teach an Environmental Chemistry course next Spring that will deal with the pros and cons of various energy alternatives, and any insight you can give on the true economics of geothermal energy would be hugely useful… if you can’t answer, perhaps Mr. Thompson can?

    With many thanks,
    Steve

  • Dave Kimble

    I can’t believe you didn’t think to ask what the ERoEI of the technology is.

    You also didn’t clarify whether this is ‘hot wet rocks’ (i.e. using volcanic heat) or hot dry rocks (i.e. using heat from the radioactive decay of uranium in granite).

    You didn’t ask at what depth the hot rocks are found. This has a massive impact on the energy budget. It is quite possible to spend more energy drilling holes and pumping water around than you can get back from the hot water – heat-exchanger – boiler – turbine – generator.

    You need to approach all new energy ‘sources’ with a healthy degree of skepticism.

  • Adrian Akau

    Geothermal should become exponentially developed once its benefits are to be clearly seen. Some of the present subsidies to oil would clearly be of greater value to the US if they could be earmarked to Geothermal.

    Fossil fuels will gradually be becoming “sunset” industries as the decades pass and it is reasonable to believe that RE sources will be replacing them. Time seems to stand still and all seems to pass slowly but it is inevitable that change to RE will occur.

    adrianakau2aol.com

  • Lion

    Great article. I thought the canadian government was giving enough support to this kind of research.

  • Steve Selverston

    Dave,
    Skepticism is key, I agree. But we have to remember that geothermal technology is improving steadily. We can expect costs to come down, and we can also expect a healthy learning curve with enough R&D. I’ve never heard of “hot wet rocks,” but I think you’re referring to “hydrathermal” sources.
    Steve Selverston

  • michael moigutwo kiptoo

    ye thought of an alternative source of power is great. i live next to a hot spring (Lake Bogoria in rift valley of Kenya) and i pay dearly for the conventional source of fuel. if somebody can come up with an alternative that will be great news.


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