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Construction Underway on First Geothermal Power Plant in New Mexico

September 10, 2008 - 4:38pm

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Photo of a geothermal power plant.New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Raser Technologies, Inc. announced in late August that construction has begun on the first commercial geothermal power plant in New Mexico. Located near Animas in the southwest corner of the state, the 10-megawatt (MW) Lightning Dock geothermal power plant will produce power using modular "PureCycle" power units from UTC Power, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation. First deployed at Chena Hot Springs Resort near Fairbanks, Alaska, in 2006, the PureCycle units use relatively low-temperature geothermal resources to vaporize an organic fluid, using that vapor to spin a small generator to produce power. According to Raser, 45 PureCycle units will be combined to form the 10-MW plant. The modular, prefabricated system will allow Raser to build the power plant in only 6 months and easily accommodates Raser's plans to eventually expand the plant to 20-25 MW.

The PureCycle system's ability to produce power from low-temperature resources (as low as 195°F, according to UTC Power) also simplified project development for Raser, as the company is drawing on a geothermal well that was drilled 20 years ago, but was abandoned because the resource was not hot enough for the technology available at that time. Armed with the UTC Power technology, Raser is charging ahead with eight geothermal power projects, including three projects in Nevada, three in Utah, one in Oregon, and the New Mexico project. The company has made the most progress at its 10-MW Thermo geothermal power plant near Beaver, Utah, where it began placing PureCycle units in August. On September 3, the company announced that it had set its first 50 PureCycle units in place. Raser ordered 90 PureCycle units from UTC Power in 2007, and in April 2008 it ordered another 110 units, which will give the company the ability to build 40-45 MW of geothermal power capacity at its various project locations.

Geothermal power plants are also under development in California and Nevada. The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) approved two geothermal power contracts in late July: San Diego Gas and Electric Company (SDG&E) will buy 40 MW of power from a plant in California's Imperial Valley that Esmeralda Energy Company plans to build by December 2010, while Southern California Edison will buy 30-100 MW of power from a plant that Ormat Technologies, Inc. plans to build near Wister, California, by June 2012. Ormat builds and operates geothermal power plants throughout the United States, and on September 4, the company earned approval to begin building the 49.5-MW Faulkner 1 geothermal power plant in Blue Mountain, Nevada. Nevada Geothermal Power Inc. (NGP) developed the Blue Mountain project, which is located about 20 miles west of Winnemucca. When the facility is completed next year, it will sell its power to the Nevada Power Company. See the press release from the CPUC.

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