Less than six months after discovering a massive geothermal field 180 miles southwest of Salt Lake City near Minersville, Utah, Raser Technologies expects to begin delivering clean, renewable electricity to residents of Anaheim, California under the terms of a 20-year power purchase agreement with the Anaheim city government.
A dramatic demonstration of just how quickly and effectively such “new” geothermal energy, heat and power resources can be brought on line, Raser wasted no time in tapping into what may turn out to be |one of the more important geothermal energy developments of the last quarter century,” according to University of Utah professor of geothermal exploration Greg Nash.
Discovery of the field – where superheated water circulates through a porous limestone deposit more than a mile thick several thousand feet below the surface – has prompted management to drastically revise its capacity estimate and development plans for the project. Originally slated for 10-megawatts, they now anticipate being able to develop a 230-megawatt plant on the site, and that may only be scratching the surface, according to an AP report run today in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette’s Northwest Arkansas edition.
Turning It On
At 230 megawatts, the forecast capacity of Raser’s Minersville plant would be capable of supplying power to some 200,000 homes given current average rates of consumption. By contrast, in today’s market environment a typical coal- or natural gas-fired plant might come in at around 600 megawatts, AP reporter Foy notes in his report.
The largest group of geothermal plants in the world is located right outside San Francisco, he adds. “The Geysers, about 60 miles northeast of San Francisco. The Geysers’ geothermal basin produces about 900 megawatts of energy, enough to power the city,” Ann Robertson-Tait, a senior geologist and vice president of business development for GeothermEX, told Foy.
Raser has worked closely with UTC Power, a division of United Technologies Corp., to develop a new generation of “binary cycle” geothermal systems that can rely on lower temperature deposits of geothermal fluids to generate commercially viable quantities of electricity.
On the financial side, Raser has worked closely with Merrill Lynch – now part of Bank of America– to raise capital and structure customized financing, which has helped management and the company prove itself as well as its technology, to the point where it recently raised $10 million of equity capital at $5 per share.
Management and UTC Power plan to build at least seven more geothermal plants in western states by the end of 2009. Further out, it’s looking to build 10 plants per year for the next ten years, according to the AP report.
Raser management on Dec. 26 announced that it had acquired 17 new leases covering more than 50,000 acres of geothermal, limited surface and other rights in Utah in the Bureau of Land Management’s December 19 auction. The new leases bring Raser’s total geothermal holdings to over 300,000 acres across five states.
In other recent news, the company’s shares are moving up in grade, having qualified for listing on the New York Stock Exchange, where they will continue to trade under the symbol “RZ”.