Geothermal energy is making the news around the world as the most reliable source of renewable energy. Geothermal energy comes from heat in the Earth’s core which was generated when the planet was formed as well as from the radioactive decay of minerals. Historically, this energy could only be harnessed near the Earth’s tectonic plates, however, innovations in technology have made it easier for geothermal energy to reach more widely.
While the initial investment costs might be higher for a geothermal plant, the capacity factor (the ratio of a plant’s actual power output to its production potential) can reach as high as 98%, the highest of any other energy source. Geothermal energy is also more reliable than other sustainable sources, such as wind and solar, which depend on certain types of climate.
Unfortunately, geothermal resources supply less than 1% of the world’s energy.
California is the biggest producer of geothermal energy in the United States. In May 2011, California Geothermal Energy Collaborative hosted its annual forum in Mammoth Lakes, California. The forum addressed contemporary resource development projects, the challenges they face, advances in resource assessment and exploration, engineering, water management, and regulatory issues.
The High Sierra Energy Foundation reports that Mammoth Lakes is currently 75% dependent on propane. The organization works towards promoting sustainable development in the Eastern Sierras and supports the development of the first geothermal, commercial hotel to be built in the area. Mammoth View, A Handmade Hotel is a 5.5 acre project developed by Britannia Pacific Properties. The boutique property, which boasts environmentally friendly branding, will have 54 hotel rooms and 52 residences (28 eco-cabins and 24 eco-lofts). The project will also meet 50% of its irrigation water demand from reclaimed snowmelt and runoff, will save 50% of mature trees on site, and use reclaimed timber in the architecture.
While it’s easy to see how private funds can support investments in alternative energy, how much should local governments invest in projects that promote the distribution of sustainable energy?
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