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Morning photo: Fire and ice

Incredible contrasts in Iceland

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The moon rises over the Svartsengi power plant and the Blue Lagoon, near Grindavik, Iceland. Once the geothermally heated was has served its purpose generating electricity, its funneled into the nearby lava beds, supplying water for the world-famous spa and pool.

FRISCO — More than any other country, Iceland has access to incredible amounts of geothermal energy, used to heat entire communities and to produce electricity. Often, the super-heated water spews or bubbles from the ground close to the ice-clad mountains. In fact, the water running off the glaciers is an important part of the geothermal cycles, as it trickles down through the faults in the Earth’s crust — which is cracked and split to begin with in this region — only to be heated by seething magma, and then rising to the surface. The fascinating juxtaposition of fire and ice is one of the most appealing facets of this wind-whipped island in the North Atlantic. Continue reading

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Renewable energy in the West on track to be cost-competitive with fossil fuels — without subsidies

Smart placement needed to match production with demand

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An NREL map shows the potential for solar power production.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A new study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory tries a mix-and-match approach to help plan future solar, wind and geothermal power development in the West.

By 2025, renewable energy generation could become cost-competitive without federal subsidies — if new renewable energy development occurs in the most productive areas, smartly located to meet the demand from regional population and industrial centers.

The report compares the cost of renewable electricity generation (without federal subsidies) with the cost of energy from a new natural gas-fired generator built near the customers it serves. Wind power produced in Wyoming and New Mexico could meet demand from California and the Southwest. Wyoming could probably produce the power at a lower cost, but New Mexico has the advantage of being closer to the areas with high demand, the report found. Continue reading

Pair of laws could spur renewable energy boom in the West

The Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant in Þingvellir, Iceland, shows that renewable energy on a large scale is an industrial endeavor. Plans to explore and develop geothermal resources in the American West could get a boost from a proposed law under consideration by Congress.

Measures would help companies develop geothermal resources and create competitive bidding process for wind and solar leases; part of royalties would be earmarked for conservation

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — House and Senate bills promoting wind and solar energy projects on public lands have the potential to spark a renewable energy boom in the West — and the measures have support from influential conservation groups like Trout Unlimited because they require that part of the royalty revenues derived from energy production on public lands go toward monitoring and mitigating impacts to wildlife.

The bills, sponsored by Senators Harry Reid and Jon Tester and Representative Dean Heller, encourage the responsible development of renewable energy while carefully considering the impacts on the country’s fish- and wildlife-rich landscapes. Provisions of these bills would, for the first time, establish a leasing program for wind and solar energy development on public lands.

The Wind and Solar Leasing Act would create a competitive bidding process for leases instead of the current first-come, first-serve application process.

The geothermal Exploration Act would help energy companies with the up-front costs associated with exploration and drilling for geothermal resources. The bill will set up a loan fund that the Department of Energy will administer to assist companies with higher risk development projects. Continue reading

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