WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A competitive auction of lease parcels for geothermal energy resources on federal public lands in Nevada held on August 5 in Reno was the largest geothermal sale ever in terms of dollars bid, bringing in a record $28.2 million for a total of 105,211 acres.
Fifty percent of revenues from the lease sale – including bonus bids, rentals, and royalties collected on the leases – is distributed to the State in which the leased lands are located, and 25 percent is distributed to the counties where the leases are located. The remaining 25 percent is distributed to the Bureau of Land Management to be used for the processing of geothermal leases and geothermal use authorizations.
"The public lands system managed by the Bureau of land Management holds the largest supply of geothermal energy in this country and already supplies half of the nation's geothermal energy," said Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne. "The geothermal sale this week in Nevada opens the way for even more geothermal development and is just one step in our continuing effort to responsibly use and develop clean, renewable energy."
Geothermal resources, such as steam and hot water, are used directly to heat buildings and in greenhouses and aquaculture, and indirectly to generate electric power. Geothermal energy accounts for 17 percent of the electricity generated from renewable sources in the U.S. Half of the nation’s geothermal energy production occurs on federal land, much of it in California and Nevada, and 90 percent of the potential resources are located on public lands as well. Other states with geothermal activity include Oregon, Utah, Idaho and New Mexico.
All 35 parcels offered in the August 6 sale were sold. The high bonus bid per-acre was for a 2,707-acre parcel in Churchill County at $1,000 per acre by ENEL Geothermal LLC. The highest bid paid for a parcel was $3,204,000 by Standard Steam Trust, LLC, for 3,560 acres. Three parcels in Churchill County, consolidated and offered as a block, sold for $585 per acre, bringing in $6,934,005 from Magma Energy US Corp.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 directed changes in the way federal geothermal resources are leased, including a requirement that leasing be competitive. The August 6 sale was the first lease sale to offer parcels formally nominated by the public using a process outlined in regulations the BLM published in May 2007. Two prior sales held in 2007 sold 57 lease parcels totaling 140,484 acres in California, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah, bringing in bonus bids totaling $28.8 million. Under the competitive leasing provision of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 245,695 acres have been leased bringing in $57 million in bids. The Bureau of land Management has also issued a total of 117 noncompetitive geothermal leases totaling 181,340 acres in Nevada since August 2005. Noncompetitive leases are charged a nominal first-year rental of $1 per acre.
The bureau is implementing a number of the provisions of The Energy Policy Act of 2005 that relate to renewable energy, including program-level impact analysis and policy guidance for wind and solar energy development and steps to reach the Act’s goal of approving by 2015 new renewable energy projects on public lands with the capacity to generate at least 10,000 megawatts of electricity.
Since 2001, the Bureau of Land Management has issued 380 geothermal leases, compared to 25 leases in the preceding 4 years, and currently has about 1,275 megawatts of geothermal energy installed on the public lands system. The bureau released a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) in June 2008 that examines the environmental impacts of boosting geothermal leasing in areas with high potential for near-term exploration and development of geothermal resources. If deemed appropriate by the PEIS, the bureau will amend the land use plans in those areas to allow for expanded leasing. Public comments on the Draft PEIS are due by September 19, 2008.
More information is available on the Bureau of land Management website at (http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/energy/geothermal/geothermal_nationwide.html).