Maybe, like hydro-electricity, geothermal is a power source that deserves state assistance to get it up to critical mass. Certainly Asia is well placed to take a lead. In addition to the naturally occurring resources, industry in the area is technologically capable of the challenge. Mitsubishi Corp, Toshiba Corp and Fuji Electric are leaders in the geothermal equipment industry, supplying nearly 70 percent of all steam turbines and power gear at geothermal plants worldwide.
Even countries like Kenya that don’t even make it into the emerging market category are achieving geothermal power production by doing little more than guaranteeing a 20-year power contract for firms willing to put in the upfront investment. Kenya already produces over 200 MW of power from various Rift Valley sites and has plans to add another 300 MW by 2013. Kenya estimates it has the potential to produce 7 GW (7000 MW) from the area and is targeting production of 5 GW by 2030.
Headline statements like Ëœthe amount of heat within 10,000 meters (about 33,000 feet) below the earth’s surface contains 50,000 times more energy than all the oil and natural gas resources in the world’ are indicative of the vast amount of power the earth holds, but fatuous in any meaningful way. Drilling costs and heat replenishment mean tapping into background heat seeping through the earth’s crust is not a viable source of power, however much there may be in total. But naturally occurring geothermal resources in geologically active regions are a viable renewable and low-emissions source of power that, like tidal, deserves greater state support if our “green taxes are to be put to any useful purpose other than swelling the treasury coffers. Sometimes, even no money is required; merely a guaranteed tariff and contract period. We do it for wind and solar, both of which have environmental issues and dodgy economics, so why not for geothermal? One study puts the world’s geothermal potential at 2,841 GW, more than half the world’s current power demand, according to Reuters. Surely, some of the billions we are spending on nuclear power in geologically unstable areas could be better spent on tapping power from those same geological resources?