Geothermal Power Gets Idaho Politician Love

Even as some governors move to effectively kill clean energy projects in their states, others seem to be embracing them. Idaho’ governor C.L. “Butch” Otter seems to be one such individual, having recently signed four bills into law that are expected to make geothermal leasing in the state easier than in previous years. The laws specifically target state-owned land under which geothermal sources are available, and remove what the governor calls unnecessary administrative barriers.

Otter was quoted as saying that “developing our geothermal resources has the exciting potential to provide a firm, reliable and ‘green’ source of alternative energy for Idaho.” He went on to stress that the Idaho should seek to balance energy independence while bringing in royalties and endowments for its coffers. To that end, House Bills 52, 53, 54 and 56 went into law on March 15.

Ormat Geothermal

image via Ormat Technologies

House Bill 52 gives the Idaho Land Board the power to reach lease agreements up to 49 years, longer than previously allowed. House Bill 53 give the land board the ability to negotiate rent and royalty payments commensurate with the marketplace. House Bill 54 gives the land board the authority to remove the single 640-acre limit for a geothermal area, allowing new developers to potentially use thousands of acres for a project. House Bill 56 removes fixed bond amounts required, allowing the land board to set bonding levels for each level of development for a geothermal program.

Idaho has been increasing their renewable energy capacity in several sectors this year. We reported on a 23 megawatt geothermal power plant being built in southeastern Oregon that will provide energy to Idaho residents. As well, the state recently announced a 183 megawatt wind farm, further progressing Idaho’s green technology investments.

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Aaron Colter is a freelance writer and marketing consultant in Portland, Oregon. A graduate of Purdue University, he has worked for the NCAA, Dark Horse Comics, Willamette Week, AOL, The Huffington Post, Top Shelf Productions, DigitalTrends, theMIX agency, SuicideGirls, EarthTechling, d'Errico Studios and others. He is also the co-founder of, a free record label, recording studio, and distribution service for independent musicians.


  • Reply March 26, 2011


    As a mechanical tech. for 15 years I do know a little about Geothermo (earth heat) energy. If the system uses brine water its clean. If my memory serves me correctly a 3/4 inch pipe must be barried in a 75 foot loop totaling 150 feet per 12,000 BTU’s using Brine water . To get enough heat transfer to run a electrical generating steam turbine is what worries me. Otheirs are talking about the thermo loop deep, or near a magma chamber “Scary” . Green is the issue ,but safty is a more prominit issue now also in light of the recent events in Japan. It also concurns me the liquid these engineers intend on using in the thermo loop . This is deep within the earth just remember two words WATER TABLE .

    • Reply March 26, 2011


      What you are talking about is geothermal HVAC. This article is about generating electricity using the Earth’s heat.nnThis type of geothermal involves drilling into existing pockets of steam and letting that steam bring the heat to the surface where it can be used to spin turbines. Brine, clean doesn’t matter a lot. The geothermal plants along the Salton Sea are bringing up mineral laced water and we’re starting to extract lithium for EV batteries from the plant waste water.nnThere’s another technique being developed in which two (or more) holes are drilled down until the drills reach really hot rock. Then water is pumped down one hole and steam is collected from the others. This will greatly increase the areas where we can make power using geothermal. This technique will not be dependent on finding existing underground hot streams.nnAs for drilling into magma, not that big an issue. Obviously you don’t want to drill into an area where there is a lot of built up pressure. You could deliver a volcano ahead of schedule. But otherwise there’s no particular problem. Just a few months ago geologists drilled into magma in Hawaii. The lava flowed into the hoe they had drilled, cooled, and plugged the hole.nnGeothermal does not involve drilling into magma. And geothermal generally involves drilling much lower than the water table, the wells are drilled and then sleeved thus isolating the geothermal system from ground water.

  • Reply March 29, 2011

    Jessica Janes

    Geothermal seems to be the least mentioned sustainable energy. Not sure why it isn’t as sexy as solar or wind. Maybe because it is hidden? Regardless, this is an exciting move and it is always nice to see bureaucratic barriers removed.

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