Oregon’s first industrial-scale geothermal plant is feeding power to the electric grid, the Statesman Journal reports.
The Neal Hot Springs plant (pictured) in Eastern Oregon’s Malheur County is generating 28 MW of electricity, according to the newspaper. US Geothermal, which owns project in partnership with Canada’s Enbridge, initially put the plant’s estimated output at 23 MW.
Idaho Power buys the electricity under a 25-year power purchase agreement. The PPA has a starting price of $96 per MWh and escalates at a variable percentage annually.
The $143.6 million project consists of three separate power modules. US Geothermal’s pumps draw 300-degree water from an underground reservoir located about 2,500 feet under the earth’s surface. It turns refrigerant into a vapor, which turns a turbine and runs a generator, the newspaper reports. The water is then injected back into the ground at 140 to 150 degrees to be reheated.
In 2009 US Geothermal submitted a loan application for the plant to the DOE’s Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy and Advanced Transmission and Distribution Solicitation loan guarantee program under Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
The financial closing for the DOE loan guarantee happened two years later, securing a $96.8 million loan guarantee from the DOE and a direct loan from the US Treasury’s Federal Financing Bank. The $96.8 million loan represented 67 percent of the total project cost, which increased by $14.6 million during construction. Equity contributions by the partners covered the increase.
The Statesman Journal says US Geothermal has talked about a second phase of the Neal Hot Springs project but at this time doesn’t have plans for further development. The company also has projects at Raft River, Idaho, and San Emidio, Nev.
Seven new geothermal projects and additions came online in three states in 2012, totaling 147.05 MW of gross capacity, according to the Geothermal Energy Association.