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

October surprise

News
Sunday, October 12, 2014
roundup-logo-thumb-14BY LINDA BAKER

Cylvia Hayes, tabloid vs. watchdog journalism and the looming threat of a Cascadia earthquake.


Read more...

Gone Girl

News
Monday, September 29, 2014
roundup-logo-thumb-14BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Wehby disappears, Kitzhaber fails to disclose and Seattle gets bike share before Portland.


Read more...

Measure 91: What Oregon Businesses Need to Know

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
91 thumbBY DIANE BUISMAN

Some common misconceptions employers have about marijuana.


Read more...

The clean fuels opportunity

News
Monday, November 10, 2014
111014-dirtyfuel-thumbBY KIM MOORE | OB RESEARCH EDITOR

A market for low-carbon transportation fuels has a chance to flourish in Oregon if regulators adopt the second phase of the state’s Clean Fuels Program.


Read more...

I Know How You Feel

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

Most smartphones come equipped with speech recognition systems like Siri or Cortana that are capable of understanding the human voice and putting words into actions. But what if smartphones could do more? What if smartphones could register feeling?


Read more...

Shifting Ground

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JOE ROJAS-BURKE

Bans on genetically modified crops create uncertainty for farmers.


Read more...

Shuffling the Deck

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JON BELL

Oregon tribes still bet on casinos.


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