Of all the ‘mainstream’ forms of renewable energy, it seems that geothermal power is always left in the shadows compared to solar and wind power. However, that looks set to change with news that the US Department of Energy will fund geothermal projects in northwestern Nevada and southeast Oregon. With funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, the DOE has stated a “conditional commitment” to provide a partial guarantee for a rumoured $98.5 million loan to the Nevada Geothermal Power Company (NGP).
The Silver State-based company has developed the Faulkner 1, a 49.5 MW geothermal power project at NGP’s Blue Mountain site in northwestern Nevada. Currently, the project is planning two new injection wells to enhance the distribution of injected fluids and further augment the plant’s power output. As such, the DOE is acting as loan guarantor for up to 80 percent of the $98.5 million loan to NGP for the scheme.
As part of the Obama administration’s Recovery Act, alternative energy has seen a real increase in investment with projects such as the Cape Wind Farm being finalized. Recent tragedies such as the Gulf of Mexico oil spill have only solidified support for alternative energy.
Geothermal projects haven’t dominated headlines like solar and wind projects have, but US Senator Harry Reid hopes to see that change. Speaking about the DOE’s support, Senator Reid said, “I am glad to see economic recovery funding being used to put Nevadans to work on a project that will help us achieve energy independence” He went on to say, “Northern Nevada is the Saudi Arabia of geothermal energy.”
Oregon will also see investment from the DOE, with the government department announcing an offer of a $102.2 million conditional commitment for a loan guarantee to US Geothermal, Inc. to construct a 22 MW power plant. The project, if approved, could be the first commercial geothermal power plant in the state, with the electricity generated being sold to Idaho Power.
Whereas most geothermal power plants generally draw on underground reservoirs of hot water or steam to drive a turbine, which spins a generator to produce power, the Oregon project will use an improved technology to extract energy from geothermal hot water more efficiently and will use the heat extracted to increase the output of the power plant. With China rapidly becoming the world leader in alternative technologies, the US is really going to have to raise its game if it is to compete.
Via Green Tech Media