Coordinating Permit Offices and the Development of Utility-Scale Geothermal Energy

Aaron Levine, Katherine Young, Kermit Witherbee

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

2 Scopus Citations


An Icelandic investor in geothermal power projects reported in 2011 that the average time to develop a geothermal power plant in the United States can take as long as five to seven years. Permitting is a major component of the development process and appears to be a key development concern. Better coordination across government agencies could reduce uncertainty of the process and the actual time of permitting. As a result, the United States Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) requested that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) analyze the potential use of coordinating permit offices for utility-scale geothermal power plants. This study examines various forms of coordinating permit offices at the state and federal level in the western United States, discusses inefficiencies and mitigation techniques for permitting natural resource projects, analyzes whether various approaches are easily adaptable to utility-scale geothermal development, and addresses advantages and challenges for coordinating permit offices. Key successful strategies identified include: • Flexibility in implementing the approach (i.e. less statutory requirements for the approach); • Less dependence on a final environmental review for information sharing and permit coordination; and • State and federal partnerships developed through memorandum of understanding to define roles and share data and/or developer information. A few of the most helpful techniques include: • A central point of contact for the developer to ask questions surrounding the project; • Pre-application meetings to assist the developer in identifying all of the permits, regulatory approvals, and associated information or data required; • A permit schedule or timeline to set expectations for the developer and agencies; and • Consolidating the public notice, comment, and hearing period into fewer hearings held concurrently.

Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages10
StatePublished - 2013
EventGeothermal Resources Council Annual Meeting: A Global Resource, from Larderello to Las Vegas, GRC 2013 - Las Vegas, NV, United States
Duration: 29 Sep 20132 Oct 2013


ConferenceGeothermal Resources Council Annual Meeting: A Global Resource, from Larderello to Las Vegas, GRC 2013
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityLas Vegas, NV

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-6A20-58776


  • Alaska
  • BLM
  • Coordinating permit offices
  • Geothermal regulatory roadmap
  • GRR
  • Hawaii
  • Policy
  • Regulation
  • Utility-scale geothermal power plant


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