Hometown values: Cooperative Models for Engineering Geothermal Projects
By Kevin Wallace, Marshall Ralph – POWER Engineers
and William Harvey – Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, Reykjavik University, Iceland
The idea of reliably generating electricity from indigenous hydrothermal resources – extremely hot water from wells – is economically, environmentally, and socially attractive, especially in places such as the Pacific Ring of Fire or the Great Rift region of Africa. Geothermal plants offer their home countries and regions the potential to generate reliable electric power that can offset or displace electrical power generated at higher cost using imported energy sources such as oil, gas and coal.
There are other hometown advantages to development of geothermal projects. Most geothermal plant projects are typically under 100 MW in capacity, not gargantuan efforts as conventional fossil-fired plants tend to be. Because of this more accessible scale and other factors inherent to the geothermal resource, these projects can offer additional opportunities for home-country financial, engineering, operational, and supply resource participation, despite the highly specialized equipment and folk wisdom required for certain aspects of their design and operation.
However, achieving this integration of larger numbers of locally based people and companies requires increasingly complex project management structures and thoughtful consideration in the beginning to maximize home-country participation. In this paper, we discuss strategies for geothermal project structure and execution to support effective inclusion of in-country resources in project engineering, procurement, construction and operation, with the aim of keeping these projects financially attractive, locally rewarding, and successful in the long-term. Illustrative examples – the good and the sobering – from projects in Africa, the Americas, Europe, and Asia are provided.
Among other factors, we propose that geothermally appropriate and clear divisions of responsibilities between local and foreign parties, integration of local entities throughout all project phases, and specialized knowledge transfer are all shown to assist in project execution and maximize long term benefits to the project and community.
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