Site selection for geothermal projects including, exploration, drilling, or potential development of power generating facilities should consider many different factors. Important factors include the location of the land, the ownership and definition of geothermal resources, potential environmental impacts, water access and water rights issues, and the accessibility to transmission lines. If the land being considered is managed by a federal agency there may be certain restrictions limiting what the land can be used for. A developer should consider what agency or governmental body will oversee the permitting process as requirements can vary.
Prior to substantial investments, a developer should research whether a proposed site or area is available for development. Statutory or regulatory limitations require that certain lands be excluded from consideration for development. These lands generally include U.S. National Parks, U.S. National Monuments, federally designated Wilderness Areas, U.S. Forest Service primitive areas, and projects impacting land under the control of the Department of Defense.
Land ownership and access is key to any project. Geothermal resources may wholly belong to the state, the surface landowner, or the mineral owner. Geothermal ownership and resource definitions vary state by state. Generally, geothermal resources are regulated in one of the following ways:
- Mineral right;
- Water right; and
- Sui generis.
In some states, the classification between geothermal as a mineral right versus a water right depends on the temperature of the resource. The resource definition can impact which agency has administrative authority and may add substantial time to the permitting process where a permit to appropriate water is required.
Within each state, projects in certain areas may be subject to local laws, permitting, and/or zoning requirements. Developers will want to determine the scope of local authority in a particular project area from the outset.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires Federal agencies to consider the potential environmental consequences of their proposed action, and any reasonable alternatives, before deciding whether and in what form to take an action. Even if a project is not subject to NEPA review, the state may require a process similar to NEPA.
The proximity to existing transmission and access to potential rights-of-way is key to a successful project.
|Permitting Location||State Siting Act||State Preemptive Authority||Siting/Permitting Entities||Permit Processing Timeframe|
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