Published October 8, 2008 09:40 AM

Geothermal energy development gathers steam

An unusual combination of economic and environmental forces have created a "perfect storm" that could help geothermal shed its back-seat status to its renewable cousins wind and solar energy, experts said at an international conference.

One after another, state and federal regulators, oil company executives, investor-owned utility officials and private developers on Monday recited the conditions in play to an overflow crowd of more than 1,000.

The financial meltdown on Wall Street, soaring oil prices, the volatility of the natural gas market, concern about global warming and a new administration assuming the White House are driving increasing demand for the energy produced by harnessing heat from beneath the earth's surface, they said.

"There is not going to be another opportunity like there is now," said Rebecca Wagner, a former manager at a geothermal development company who serves on the state Public Utilities Commission in Nevada, which has the most potential geothermal power in the country.

"This is the perfect storm of events to prove the geothermal industry is going to help address and possibly solve a lot of our energy issues," she said.

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