Here’s a continuation of our discussion on geothermal:
There are several U.S. incentives in place that may help expand the geothermal industry:
1) A three year extension of the production tax credit (PTC) making geothermal plants placed in service by December 31, 2013 eligible for the full credit.
2) Extension of the 30% investment tax credit (ITC) to new geothermal projects.
3) $1.6 billion in new bonding authority for Clean Renewable Energy Bonds.
4) Up to $6 billion in loan guarantees for new renewable / geothermal power projects.
The Green Jobs Through Geothermal Energy report concludes that the U.S. could significantly bolster levels of employment through expanding the geothermal industry. The report looks carefully at every phase of a geothermal project and the kinds of jobs it creates. It states that more jobs are created than in some energy technologies, but it also employs those from a spectrum of levels and backgrounds, from PhDs to technical “green collar” folks like the drillers, welders and machinists.
A comparative job creation chart from the report is shown below. Comparing Geothermal industry jobs with Natural Gas based on MW produced, sourced from US DOE statistics:
|Power Source||Construction Employment (jobs/MW)||O&M Employment (jobs/MW)||Total Employment for 500 MW Capacity (person-years)|
The jobs report states that geothermal jobs average higher than average wages, and they tend to be more long-term. “Geothermal developers, who typically negotiate 10 to 30 year agreements with purchasers, provide jobs that can be guaranteed for decades. The overwhelming majority of geothermal jobs are permanent (95%), and most are also full-time.” (GEA report, page 7)
The report also looks closer at rural areas, where many geothermal resources tend to be located. A majority of jobs rely on local employees, but historically the lack of stable, secure and long-term jobs in rural areas has led to a migration away to cities. The report infers that rural areas could be revived economically and in a meaningful way through geothermal projects. It would give the workforce an opportunity to be educated, trained and employed long-term, instead of relying on a single industry such as farming or simply moving away to a city. These projects could potentially bring more stability.
So what are the kinds of jobs that handle the geothermal industry projects? The report cites: welders, mechanics, pipe fitters, plumbers, machinist, electricians, carpenters, construction and drilling equipment operators, surveyors, architects, geologists, hydrologists, engineers (electrical, mechanical and structural), HVAC techs, attorneys, regulatory and environmental consultants, accountants, specialized computer techs, spa developers, researchers, and specialized government employees.
GEA has published the helpful 15 page “Geothermal Education and Training Guide”. It covers undergraduate and graduate studies typical for the geothermal industry, lists specific university programs. In addition to listing the top programs in the U.S, the National Geothermal Academy (NGA) is covered. This is a new academy that is expected to open in 2011. It is a collaborative endeavor with the participation of top geothermal schools like MIT, University of Utah, Stanford, Cornell and West Virginia University. The NGA will offer eight 1 week courses including Intro to Geothermal Utilization, Geothermal Business Principles, Public Policy, Permitting & Environmental Issues, Exploration I & II, Reservoir Engineering, Power Plant Design & Construction, and Direct Use.
The Colorado School of Mines, Boise State University, Brown, Rice, Oklahoma State, New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology, University of California – Berkeley, Texas A&M, and University of Nevada – Reno are but some of the university programs highlighted in the brochure. Geothermal TechnicalTraining opportunities are also covered. Programs are held by such groups as Baker Hughes, HeatSpring Learning Institute, Murchison Drilling Schools, Southwest Mississippi Community College and Western Nevada College. Websites links are listed, and it is surely a good way to start research.
So how would training and education in clean energy pay off? What are the prospects in the U.S.?
The Jobs report cites that in Nevada, Utah and California alone, the geothermal projects in development alone could create 2,500 to 10,000 jobs. But looking more closely, the report gathered shows that one typical 50 MW plant can involve 860 different people over a range of skills. An interesting way to look at the jobs in the chart below, courtesy the GEA jobs report, by Stages of Development in a 50 MW plant:
|Stage of Development||No. of jobs|
|Start-up||10 – 13|
|Exploration||11 – 22|
|Drilling||91 – 116|
|Plant Design and Construction (EPC)||383 – 489|
|Operation and Maintenance||10 – 25|
|Power Plant System Manufacturing||192 – 197|
|Total||697 – 862|
Some new sites (and news jobs) may be opening in the western U.S. on federal lands. Federal lands under lease for geothermal projects are rising considerably. To facility leasing, the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service preparing a joint Environmental Impact Statement, analyzing and expediting potential federal land leases in 11 western states. The report recommended 77% of the lands are eligible and could be open to geothermal leasing.
Also at the federal level, the Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Program (GTP) was provided with $400 million to spur new jobs, technologies and the industry. $338 million in awards have been awarded, announced October 2009.
Let’s hope that these various actions, opportunities and inititiaves help bring new plants – and new jobs – to the U.S. while moving us towards cleaner domestic energy.