9. Geothermal

Geothermal Milestones

Early 1900sFirst geothermal electricity commercializationConversion of high-grade hydrothermal resources to electricity began in Italy in the early 1900s.
1960U.S. commercializationThe first commercial-scale development tools were placed at The Geysers in California, a 10-megawatt unit owned by Pacific Gas & Electric.
1970Reinjection of geothermal fluidsInjection of spent geothermal fluids back into the production zone began as a means to dispose of waste water and maintain reservoir life.
1972Deep well drillingTechnology improvements led to deeper reservoir drilling and access to more resources.
1977Hot dry rock demonstratedIn 1977, scientists developed the first hot dry rock reservoir at Fenton Hill, New Mexico.
1978Federal research and development (R&D) funding exceeds $100 millionU.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funding for geothermal research and development was $106.2 million (1995 dollars) in fiscal year 1978, marking the first time the funding level surpassed $100 million. It remained above $100 million until fiscal year 1982, when it was reduced to $56.4 million (1995 dollars). Currently, the budget is in the $30 million to $40 million range.
1978Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) enactedPURPA mandated the purchase of electricity from qualifying facilities (QFs) meeting certain technical standards regarding energy source and efficiency. PURPA also exempted QFs from both State and Federal regulation under the Federal Power Act and the Public Utility Holding Company Act.
1980First commercial binary systemThe first commercial-scale binary plant in the United States, installed in Southern California's Imperial Valley, began operation in 1980.
1980sCalifornia Standard Offer ContractsCalifornia's Standard Offer Contract system for PURPA QFs provided renewable electric energy systems a relatively firm and stable market for output, allowing the financing of such capital-intensive technologies as geothermal energy facilities.
1982Hydrothermal generating capacity of 1,000 megawattsGeothermal (hydrothermal) electric generating capacity, primarily utility-owned, reached a new high level of 1,000 megawatts.
1989Geopressured power plant demonstratedIn 1989, DOE and the Electric Power Research Institute operated a 1-megawatt demonstration plant in Texas, extracting methane and heat from brine liquids.
1990Drop in Federal funding for geothermal R&D to $15 millionDOE funding for geothermal energy research and development declined throughout the 1980s, reaching its low point in fiscal year 1990.
1991Magma drilling project reaches a depth of 7,588 feetThe world's first magma exploratory well was drilled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains to a depth of 7,588 feet. It did not encounter magma at that depth inside the caldera.
1994Industry consolidates and looks at new marketsCalifornia Energy became the world's largest geothermal company through its acquisition of Magma Power. Near-term international markets gained the interest of U.S. geothermal developers.
1985-95Capacity outside The Geysers exceeds 1,000 megawattsSince 1985, U.S. geothermal developers have added nearly 1,000 megawatts of geothermal electric generating capacity outside The Geysers.
1995Worldwide geothermal capacity of 6,000 megawattsWorldwide geothermal capacity currently totals 6,000 megawAtts in 20 countries.

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