Geothermal interest heats up in Oregon

| Print |  Email
Articles - May 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
geo2
Toni Boyd, assistant director of the Geo-Heat Center at OIT, at the campus’s new geothermal power plant.

Cheaper technology, stimulus funding and interest in renewable power have spurred a renaissance in geothermal exploration in Oregon after decades of failed attempts.

In February, a 280-kilowatt demonstration-sized power plant at Oregon Institute of Technology became the first functioning geothermal power plant in Oregon since 1982, when a Lakeview plant shut down after just a year. At least seven geothermal power projects with a combined potential of about 200 megawatts are now competing to become the second.

OIT has identified 2,195 potential sources of geothermal energy in Oregon capable of producing 594 billion BTUs per year. That energy has never been successfully harnessed on a commercial scale. Developers have been deterred in Oregon by relatively low geothermal temperatures, the fact that many of the best geothermal resources are on publicly owned lands and the challenge of competing with cheap Northwest power rates.

Some exploration continued despite these challenges and many of the sites with projects under way today were first explored 30 to 50 years ago. But the floor usually dropped out for one reason or another: failure to find high enough temperatures, opposition for environmental reasons or lack of a buyer.

But geothermal has a future in Oregon’s renewable energy portfolio because it’s a steady source of power, says independent energy consultant Alex Sifford of Neskowin.

“Wind and solar… generate power only a portion of the day or the year,” he says. “But what’s really ideal from a utility viewpoint is power that can operate 365 days a year, all day long, and be regulated.”

Efforts were boosted in November when geothermal energy projects across the state in various stages of progress received $40 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants. The recipients include the geo-heated city of Klamath Falls, which received $800,000 for a 10-megawatt plant, and is now undertaking a detailed feasibility study.

A $2 million ARRA grant for a low-temperature generator went to the Surprise Electrification Valley Corporation for a plant in Paisley, Lake County, which has about 250 residents. That project made it past the riskiest stages of identification and exploration, when companies have been known to drill wells as deep as 10,000 feet at huge expense without striking hot water or steam, and is now triumphantly projecting a 70% chance of final success.

Probably the most promising project is a 26-megawatt plant at Neal Hot Springs in Malheur County, which is being developed by Idaho-based U.S. Geothermal. The plant was not funded by ARRA, but it’s on track to receive an $85 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, and U.S. Geothermal has already signed a power purchase agreement with Idaho Power.

As soon as the plant’s construction plans are finalized, Idaho Power will build an 11-mile power line that it expects to energize by April 2011.

In the meantime, OIT’s demonstration plant has been running smoothly and saving the campus money on its electric bill. The school already has plans for another plant. 

ADRIANNE JEFFRIES
 

More Articles

European Vacation

Guest Blog
Thursday, April 23, 2015
norristhumbBY JASON NORRIS | GUEST BLOGGER

There are winners and losers with a strengthening U.S. dollar.


Read more...

Courtside

April 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Power lunching at the Court Street Dairy Lunch in Salem.


Read more...

The Health Guru

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Mohan Nair channels a visionary.


Read more...

Power Players

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY ROBERT MULLIN

A new energy-sharing agreement sparks concerns about independence and collaboration in the region's utility industry.


Read more...

Car Talk

April 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Everyone knows cell phones and driving are a lethal combination. The risk is especially high for teenage drivers, whose delusions of immortality pose such a threat to us all. Enforcement alas, remains feeble; more promising are pedagogical approaches aimed at getting people to focus on the road, not their devices.


Read more...

Shades of Gray

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

Are we too quick to diagnose corruption?


Read more...

On the Road

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

My daughter turned 18 last week, and for her birthday I got her a Car2Go membership. Not to label myself a disruptor or anything, but it felt like a groundbreaking moment. The two of us, mother and child, were participating in a new teen rite of passage: Instead of handing over the car keys, I handed over a car-sharing card — with the caveat that she not use the gift as her own personal car service.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS