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Energy Risk & Reliability: The Geothermal Difference

By Katherine Young, Executive Program Director
October 13, 2023

Reliability is a hot topic in energy these days, whether it’s the reliability of variable renewables like wind and solar, or the reliability of fossil fuel pricing. But how is reliability measured? 

Fossil Fuel Volatility 

Watching gas prices fluctuate at the pump, or my heating bill vary from month to month, I’m no stranger to the cost risk passed on to consumers by the petroleum industry. Ongoing disruptions to energy supplies have resulted in soaring fossil fuel prices, highlighting how burning coal, oil, or gas involves other risks that call into question their reliability. Risks exist in both the exploration of resources as well as consumer market fuel pricing.   

An example of natural gas price fluctuation in recent years.

Renewable Intermittency 

Most renewable energy resources don’t have this same fuel-based price volatility, but they have their own set of challenges. In the case of variable renewables like wind and solar, there is no exploration risk, but once developed, the risk is placed on the grid operator to manage the intermittency, ramping up and backfilling demand with other sources of power. Solar panels cannot generate power after sundown, and become less effective when it is overcast. Wind turbines cannot make electricity if the wind speed is too low (less than about 2.5m/s), and if the wind speed is too high (more than about 25m/s), turbines must shut down to avoid damage. 

The result is that systems are built (e.g., solar fields, transmission lines) to accommodate peak loads, but are only used a fraction of the time. Even so, when solar resources are at their peak, officials in California Independent System Operator have said they are frequently forced to curtail – or reject – solar power production while the sun is shining, just hours before customer demand peaks in the late afternoon and evening. The same thing happens to a lesser extent with wind energy. These intermittent resources have steep ramp-up and ramp-down curves. In many cases, a wind turbine or solar resource requires having a hydrocarbon resource – or a really large battery – as backup. 

The Geothermal Difference 

Geothermal exploration can be much like oil and gas in that identifying new reservoirs presents a higher risk than developing well fields in known resources. Once the reservoir has been drilled, however, the geothermal resource operates with very little risk. No intermittency. No ramping requirements. No battery or hydrocarbon backup. No volatile end-use market pricing fluctuations. No over-designing of the system. Geothermal provides a consistent, reliable, sustainable, and clean stream of energy. 

EGXFuels’ Advantage 

What does this mean for EGXFuels?  Not having to rely on volatile fossil fuel pricing volatility or intermittent renewables means EGXFuels can provide consistently predictable low-cost green fuels to the market. In fact, producing hydrogen allows for the transportation of energy to use as a backup for intermittent renewable energy sources in locations around the world. Additionally, the EGXFuels geothermal system is not expected to have the thermal drawdown typical of many geothermal wells (0.5-0.8% per year), further reducing the EGXFuels risk. 

With numerous viable energy production sites already in their portfolio, EGXFuels is well-positioned to supply a substantial volume of green hydrogen, a pivotal step in our quest to curb carbon emissions. In a world where the call for sustainable energy solutions is deafening, EGXFuels emerges as a reliable alternative that dispels the uncertainties that often cloud traditional energy sources.