Utah startup hits geothermal jackpot

This is what I was talking about as far as funding being proportional to visions & how federal officials will just wait for stuff to come to them. Further, it looks like there’s a consensus building around federal funding for a new power grid to link remote power stations to the network. From Washington Post 12/23/08

Senior aides in the new administration and the congressional leadership privately predict that they will be able to please both camps [spend infrastructure now vs spend green slowly]but suggest that there have been delays in identifying enough of the environmentally friendly projects to reach a dollar level that will truly jump-start the economy.

Why the delay? Its not clear. My guess is that not enough green power projects pencil for private capital due  to current tax laws and grid infrastructure constraints.  Also there is this.  Remember back in June the BLM put a two year freeze on solar development pending environmental review? Someone needs to have a heart to heart with those folk and maybe mention something about it to DOI secretary designate Salalazar.

Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has circulated a 41-page memo seeking $85 billion worth of projects over the next two years. The largest chunk of that money, more than $30.2 billion, would go toward highway funds, while $12 billion would go to local public transportation funds. An additional $14.3 billion would go toward “environmental infrastructure,” with most going to a clean-water fund.

Its not clear as yet what that clean water fund will consist of.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who supports both medical technology and wind farm projects, said it may take longer to pump the money into those projects, but said that is why Obama set out a two-year plan. In that time span, Nelson said, a “smart grid” could be funded that would connect wind farms and solar power hot spots around the country, delivering power in a cleaner fashion.

There is increasing talk of this grid funded by the government. So going forward– I would categorize this project as…likely.

The battle has Democratic negotiators on Capitol Hill trying to decide how to spend the money — and whom to please. Said Peppard: “One minute they want to spend it quickly, the next minute they want to spend it well.”

Curiously Geothermal energy development is taking off on BLM lands without much ado. Remember how Hawaii is harnessing 50 degree differentials between deep and surface ocean temperatures with heat exchangers off the Big Island? Same thing is happening with geothermal. Luke hot water (150 degrees)is being harvested with the help of heat exchangers– where it couldn’t be harvested before. They are financing the projects with private capital and using available infrastructure to get the electricity to market. I’ve copied and pasted the article below. It make for interesting reading because it shows you what is already in motion. How will this relate to water development –especially in the west? I’m not sure. But I know this. Water and power go hand in hand. With power due to come out of every hill, hollow and plain out West and some parts of the East -interesting possibilities for desalination seem more available. Might be a good idea to map over best solar, wind and geothermal resources — onto deep briny aquifers. Also, drop in the location of coal power plants. Oh and, as well, for fun, throw in the locations of   gypsum  in deep wide flat deposits near the surface of desert valleys.  Then overlay BLM lands on that.

Anyhow, check out what’s happening with geothermal.

Utah startup hits geothermal jackpot
Wed Dec 24, 2008 11:52 AM EST
geothermal, rush, business
Paul Foy, AP Business Writer

PROVO — Within six months of discovering a massive geothermal field, a small Utah company had erected and fired up a power plant — just one example of the speed with which companies are capitalizing on state mandates for alternative energy.

Anticipation of new energy policies has sparked a rush on land leases as companies like Raser Technologies Inc., based in Provo, lock up property that hold geothermal fields and potentially huge profits.

Raser’s find, about 155 miles southwest of Provo, could eventually power 200,000 homes.

The company said it will begin routing electricity to Anaheim, Calif. within weeks.

Earlier this month, California adopted the nation’s most sweeping plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“We made a pleasant discovery, let’s put it that way,” said Brent M. Cook, the company’s chief executive.

The number of government land leases and drilling permits have risen quickly, said Kermit Witherbee, who heads up the leasing program for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, with more than two dozen companies now trying to make a score like Raser.

Two years ago, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management approved 18 geothermal drilling permits. That number more than doubled in 2007 and has nearly quadrupled this year.

The government leased a staggering 244,000 acres for geothermal development in the past 18 months. Another 146,339 acres went up for bid Friday in Utah, Oregon and Idaho.

All of it was claimed.

Raser’s find “has the potential to become one of the more important geothermal energy developments of the last quarter century,” said Greg Nash, a professor of geothermal exploration at the University of Utah.

The company quickly redrew its business plan, bumping up its planned development of 10 megawatts of power to 230 megawatts. That is in line with the field’s power potential according to calculations by GeothermEX Inc., a consulting firm.

By comparison, the largest group of geothermal plants in the world are The Geysers, about 60 miles northeast of San Francisco. The Geysers geothermal basin produces about 900 megawatts of energy, enough to power the city, said Ann Robertson-Tait, a senior geologist and vice president of business development for GeothermEX.

Geothermal technology creates energy using heat that is stored in the earth. But geothermal still generates less than 1 percent of the world’s energy, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

“The outlook for geothermal is great,” said Brian Yerger, an energy analyst for New York-based Jesup & Lamont.

Geothermal companies are relatively small players in the energy market and have had to scramble to lock up financing, particularly during a recession.

Merrill Lynch & Co. has pledged to fund Raser’s first 100 megawatts of projects and says it is staying in the game.

“We’ve done a lot with Raser,” said Merrill Lynch spokeswoman Danielle Robinson. “We’re very committed to the company.”

Cook said his company can raise additional money from joint ventures and stock sales. “This is where the money flows, to alternative energy projects that pencil out,” he said. The company made its first major stock sale Nov. 14 to Fletcher Asset Management of New York.

“We are enthusiastic about our investment,” said Kell Benson, Fletcher’s vice chairman. The firm bought $10 million in stock at $5 a share, with an option to double the stake.

Raser and its supplier, UTC Power, plan to build another seven geothermal energy plants across the western United States by the end of 2009 and 10 plants a year for the next decade.

The push for geothermal power has been accelerated by state mandates like those in California, which this month said utilities must obtain a third of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Raser, which specializes in low-boil geothermal sites, started buying leases five years ago on hundreds of thousands of acres that had been passed over because of their lower heat potential.

New technology, however, has made low-boil water useable for geothermal power. Raser buys 250-kilowatt power units from UTC Power, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp.

Geothermal is also being used on a smaller scale.

“These things are slot machines. They make money,” said Bernie Karl, owner of Chena Hot Springs Resort, off the grid 60 miles northeast of Fairbanks, Alaska. On geothermal energy from early UTC prototypes, Karl powers light bulbs, heats lodges and rooms for 210 guests, warms a greenhouse that grows food and spices, keeps an ice house frozen and makes hydrogen for resort vehicles.

Raser hit hot water at a few thousand feet below the surface circulating inside a zone of porous limestone a mile deep. The underground “lake” cycles hot water endlessly under the power of the Earth’s internal heat like a steam engine, throwing up loops of hot water intersected by wells that return it to the system.

The company holds rights to 78 square miles of land in the area and believes it has barely tapped the full potential.

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: Water Desalination Research and Development

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: