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Project Targets Commercial Viability For Enhanced Geothermal Systems

11 MW Desert Peak 2 Geothermal Power Plant. Source: Ormat Technologies
by Staff Writers
Reno NV (SPX) Feb 15, 2008
Work has begun on the first application of an Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS) utilizing a production well at a commercial geothermal site. This project will demonstrate the viability of EGS and the technology's potential to generate clean, renewable baseload geothermal electricity in many areas throughout the country.

Ormat, the US Department of Energy (DOE), GeothermEx Inc., and other stakeholders will apply EGS technology to increase geothermal production from well number DP 27-15 at Ormat's Desert Peak facility near Reno, Nevada. EGS technology enhances the permeability of underground strata making it possible to extract additional heat from a reservoir's rocks.

Support for the project includes $1.6 million in direct DOE funding, more than two decades of development work at five national laboratories, working capital from Ormat, and the use of existing wells and facilities at the Ormat site.

"Ormat anticipates Desert Peak will be the country's first commercial project to tap into an EGS resource and produce substantial levels of electricity providing a rebirth for certain geothermal prospects in the U.S.," said Ormat Chairman and Chief Technology Officer Lucien Bronicki.

"Our objective in the Desert Peak EGS project is to demonstrate that EGS technology can achieve its potential of providing 100,000 MW of clean, base-load power, as identified in last year's DOE study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and show that this technology will enable geothermal electricity to be produced in regions where it is not currently economically viable," he added.

Bronicki noted that the participants in this R andD project, include in addition to DOE and GeothermEx, also Idaho National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratory, University of Utah EGI, TerraTek, Pinnacle Technologies and US Geological Survey.

Commenting on the potential of the Desert Peak Resource, Subir Sanyal, President of GeothermEx said: "The Desert Peak resource, which currently supports 11 MW of electricity production from a conventional geothermal resource, is likely to have the potential to support 50 MW or more from an EGS development."

The Technology and Site
Ormat air-cooled power plants are the technology of choice for EGS developments, as they don't consume water in the conversion of energy into electricity; all the geothermal fluid is re-injected back to the ground, to be produced again after heating in the EGS reservoir.

The Ormat/GeothermEx-DOE program at Desert Peak follows on research started over two decades ago at the DOE's National Laboratories, and joins Europe, Australia and Japan, which have made significant progress with EGS over the past few years. This first phase of the DP 27-15 project will use the shared funding to field test the technology in an existing sub-commercial well.

Any additional fluid produced from the well will then be use in the existing Ormat power plant at Desert Peak to efficiently generate commercial electricity for sale into the Northern Nevada power grid. In addition, the parties are planning to utilize the EGS facilities at Desert Peak as a potential test site for future technology developments.

The Brady/Desert Peak Geothermal Complex is one of five (5) geothermal facility complexes which Ormat owns and operates in the USA, producing a total of approximately 260 MW from conventional hydrothermal resources.

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