Six Utah plants help fuel rise in geothermal projects

August 08, 2008

Geothermal power projects are developing quickly across the country, with Utah playing a role. A report released Thursday by the Geothermal Energy Association shows that the number of new geothermal projects under way in the United States grew 20 percent since January. "These new projects will result in the infusion of roughly $15 billion in capital investment in the Western states and create 7,000 permanent jobs and more than 25,000 person-years of construction and manufacturing employment," Karl Gawell, the association's executive director, said in announcing the report's results.

Of the 103 projects in 13 states, Utah has six in various stages of development. Combined, the six plants have the potential of 244 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power about 244,000 average homes. Utah has one plant in operation, the Blundell Plant, with two units providing a total of 36 megawatts. A second plant, Raser Technologies' Thermo Hot Springs, is expected to come online late this year, with a net capacity of 10 megawatts.

The other plants being developed are Raser's Escalante Desert Plant, with 10 megawatts, and Central Utah Plant, with 20 megawatts; PacifiCorp's Roosevelt Hot Springs Plant (the third Blundell unit), with 35 megawatts; Enel North America's Cove Fort Plant, with 69 megawatts; and Idatherm LLC's Renaissance Geothermal Plant, with 100 megawatts. The Cove Fort units were shut down in 2003 and 2004 but are now being redeveloped.

The 103 nationwide projects, when fully developed, could provide 3,979 megawatts, or enough to power about 4 million homes. Currently, online geothermal capacity is 2,967 megawatts. Together, the current and in-development projects could supply enough power for Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco and Seattle combined, the association said. The 103 projects now under way are an increase from the 86 the association reported in January. The 86 had a potential power generation of 3,368 megawatts. Gawell said that in January 2006, the Western Governors Association's Geothermal Task Force projected that 15,000 megawatts of geothermal power would be online by 2025. "At the current pace, geothermal production could exceed this estimate," Gawell said.

The report is available at the Geothermal Energy Association Web site.

Brice Wallace | © 2008 Deseret News Publishing Company | All rights reserved