On August 22nd, Raser Technologies and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson broke ground on New Mexico’s first geothermal power plant. Situated at Lightning Dock near Animas, the new plant will incorporate an innovative binary liquid technology that allows it to make use of the site’s low levels of geothermal energy. If more of these modular plants are built then they could be mobilized to take advantage of over 120,000 MW of untapped low-temp geothermal energy across the US.
The project will be one of the first geothermal plants in the nation to incorporate the new breed of low-temperature technology featured in Raser’s proprietary modular power plants. Each individual generation unit is manufactured off-site, delivered to the location, and rapidly installed to create, in essence, a geothermal farm with multiple 450 kW units. Raser Technologies anticipates the first 10 MW of power generation will be online by early next year (2009). Phase II of the project will add another 15 MW of power, for a total of 25 MW, which is enough to power nearly fifteen thousand homes.
Typical geothermal power plants require high-temperature wells that are above 100 °C (212 °F). Dry Steam or Flash Steam power plants can easily take advantage of these high temperatures by using steam to drive a turbine.
Dubbed the Binary Cycle Power plant, Raser’s new technology is capable of generating power at temperatures below 100 °C (around 165 °F actually). To do this it uses water heated by the earth to vaporize a second “working fluid” via a heat exchanger. The vaporized working fluid is then used to drive a turbine.
This technology holds exciting prospects, as recently the US Geological Survey identified over 120,000 MW of untapped low temperature geothermal resources in the US. With the rapid deployment of these modular systems, we can now have new generators online very quickly compared to the construction of a new coal or nuclear plant. Oh, and did we mention it’s clean, renewable energy?