Home Back Issues November 2010 Geothermal investments heat up

Geothermal investments heat up

| Print |  Email
Articles - November 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010

 

1110_ATS07
U.S. Geothermal's plant near Neal Hot Springs in Eastern Oregon received a $102 million loan. // PHOTO COURTESY OF U.S. GEOTHERMAL

The ongoing construction of a $124 million geothermal plant near Neal Hot Springs was made possible by a $102 million Department of Energy loan this summer, the largest of its kind given to a geothermal project in the country. The DOE investment and other proposed government incentives are making geothermal development in the state more feasible after years of complications from large overhead costs and environmental concerns.

Oregon’s string of extinct and active volcanoes is a monument to the rich pockets of geothermal energy buried hundreds of feet below the earth. However, most of these pockets are “blind resources,” located in undetermined areas that require exploratory drilling to determine if a given area has the right geology as well as high enough water temperature and pressure for profitable energy production — a process that costs millions and has led to dead ends in the past. Even if a suitable pocket is found, the overhead costs are still large. “It’s like buying 30 to 40 years of coal, and a plant,” Portland-based energy consultant Al Waibel says.

Like U.S Geothermal’s plant near Neal Hot Springs, geothermal development at Glass Buttes in Southern Oregon is located near hotspots with a past of exploratory drilling. It is also located near Sage Grouse breeding grounds, prompting the conservation group Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) to unsuccessfully appeal the lease of the Glass Buttes area for geothermal development last year. Despite the sensitive areas, ONDA actively works with geothermal companies to find compromises such as buffer zones between wildlife areas and construction sites. “Not every project should be wiped off the list,” says Liz Nysson of ONDA.

Despite environmental concerns and exploration costs, the potential is there. Canadian company Nevada Geothermal Power (NGP) received a $1.8 million DOE grant in January to explore the Crump geyser near Lakeview and claims it has the potential to produce 30 megawatts of energy, similar to the Neal Hot Springs site. Next year, NGP may have even more incentive to push ahead thanks to the Geothermal Energy Investment Act of 2010, legislation introduced by U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo, R-ID, and Ron Wyden, D-OR, in September. Geothermal producers currently get a tax credit of 10% of power produced. The bill would increase that to 30% through 2016.

With such initiatives under way, prospects for geothermal energy in the state are bright. “Long-term costs are extremely low,” Waibel says, “It’s ‘on’ 24 hours a day.”

PETER BELAND
 

More Articles

Back to School

September 2014
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
BY LEE VAN DER VOO

By now we’ve all read the headlines: Starbucks is giving away free degrees. Except it isn’t.


Read more...

Fast Food Slows Down

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
BY KIM MOORE

The ubiquitous fast-food restaurant may be on the decline.


Read more...

A Good Leap Forward

September 2014
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

Agriculture businesses ramp up to meet international demand as workforce and succession challenges loom.


Read more...

Community colleges and sustainability

Contributed Blogs
Thursday, July 31, 2014
sustainabilityBY MARY SPILDE | OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

Faced with the aftermath of the “great recession,” increasing concern about the environment and dwindling family wage jobs, we have some very important choices to make about our future.


Read more...

Podcast: Interview with Pete Friedes

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, August 27, 2014

082714-thumb friedesbookTom Cox interviews Pete Friedes, author of "The 2R Manager," about becoming a Best Boss.


Read more...

Two sides of the coin

Contributed Blogs
Monday, August 25, 2014
0825 thumb moneyBY JASON NORRIS | OB GUEST BLOGGER

Ferguson Wellman’s investment views on the economy and capital markets.


Read more...

Managing family assets: The importance of planning ahead

News
Friday, August 22, 2014
Unknown-1BY CLIFF HOCKLEY |  OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

When business intersects with family, a host of  situations can arise. Without a clear vision and careful planning, hard-earned investments can become stressful burdens.


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