Construction Underway on First Geothermal Power Plant in New Mexico

September 10, 2008

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Raser Technologies, Inc. announced in late August that construction has begun on the first commercial geothermal power plant in New Mexico. Located near Animas in the southwest corner of the state, the 10-megawatt (MW) Lightning Dock geothermal power plant will produce power using modular "PureCycle" power units from UTC Power, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation. First deployed at Chena Hot Springs Resort near Fairbanks, Alaska, in 2006, the PureCycle units use relatively low-temperature geothermal resources to vaporize an organic fluid, using that vapor to spin a small generator to produce power. According to Raser, 45 PureCycle units will be combined to form the 10-MW plant. The modular, prefabricated system will allow Raser to build the power plant in only 6 months and easily accommodates Raser's plans to eventually expand the plant to 20-25 MW. See the press releases from the governor (PDF 79 KB) and Raser, the technology descriptions from Raser and UTC Power, and the article from this newsletter on the Chena Hot Springs project. Download Adobe Reader.

Photo of several men wearing hardhats and safety vests and guiding a modular power unit into place as a crane holds it inches above its foundation. Four other power units are already in place in a line beside it, each consisting of a cylinder about 2 feet in diameter and 15 feet long, mounted atop an electrical equipment box about six feet square and four feet deep. The end of another large cylinder sticks out behind the electrical box and has a 6-inch pipe running from it.

Raser Technologies is currently building the 10-megawatt Thermo geothermal plant in Utah, using the same modular technologies that will be employed at its New Mexico facility. Enlarge this image.
Credit: Raser Technologies, Inc.

The PureCycle system's ability to produce power from low-temperature resources (as low as 195°F, according to UTC Power) also simplified project development for Raser, as the company is drawing on a geothermal well that was drilled 20 years ago, but was abandoned because the resource was not hot enough for the technology available at that time. Armed with the UTC Power technology, Raser is charging ahead with eight geothermal power projects, including three projects in Nevada, three in Utah, one in Oregon, and the New Mexico project. The company has made the most progress at its 10-MW Thermo geothermal power plant near Beaver, Utah, where it began placing PureCycle units in August. On September 3, the company announced that it had set its first 50 PureCycle units in place. Raser ordered 90 PureCycle units from UTC Power in 2007, and in April 2008 it ordered another 110 units, which will give the company the ability to build 40-45 MW of geothermal power capacity at its various project locations. See Raser's project list and its press releases on the Thermo geothermal power plant and its PureCycle unit purchases.

Geothermal power plants are also under development in California and Nevada. The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) approved two geothermal power contracts in late July: San Diego Gas and Electric Company (SDG&E) will buy 40 MW of power from a plant in California's Imperial Valley that Esmeralda Energy Company plans to build by December 2010, while Southern California Edison will buy 30-100 MW of power from a plant that Ormat Technologies, Inc. plans to build near Wister, California, by June 2012. Ormat builds and operates geothermal power plants throughout the United States, and on September 4, the company earned approval to begin building the 49.5-MW Faulkner 1 geothermal power plant in Blue Mountain, Nevada. Nevada Geothermal Power Inc. (NGP) developed the Blue Mountain project, which is located about 20 miles west of Winnemucca. When the facility is completed next year, it will sell its power to the Nevada Power Company. See the press releases from the CPUC, SDG&E, and NGP.