California's future could lie with geothermal power

Geothermal energy could become California's "bread and butter" baseload power as nuclear and gas-fired plants are retired, a state commissioner said this week.

AOL Energy reports that with the licence for the San Onofre nuclear power plant due to expire in 2022, and the Diablo Canyon plant not permitted to continue generating after 2024, unless it applies for a 20-year extension, geothermal is in a strong position to replace them.

Those staple facilities have a combined nameplate capacity of around 4,300 MW.

California's once-through cooling policy which will prevent power stations from releasing hot water into the sea will result in the retirement or modification of 16 power plants from as early as 2015. In addition to these retirements, California also has to meet its AB32 goals to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, said Karen Douglas, commissioner at the Californian Energy Commission.

Douglas told media at the Geothermal Energy Finance and Development Forum in San Francisco that CEC regulators were preparing plans to maintain grid capacity of 31000 MW of peak load electricity.

Last year, geothermal provided 42 per cent of California's non-hydro renewable electricity. The Geothermal Energy Association estimates that up to "24750 MW of geothermal energy resources could be developed in California using conventional and incrementally improved technologies".

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