Ormat’s plant breaks new ground | nnbw.com

Ormat’s plant breaks new ground

Anne Knowles

Cooler is getting hotter for Ormat Technologies.

Reno-based Ormat’s largest plant producing power using a low-temperature geothermal resource is now online, and it opens new possibilities for the geothermal industry.

The 16-megawatt Don A. Campbell plant in Mineral County started up last month a few weeks before beginning to deliver power to southern California via NV Energy’s new One Nevada Transmission Line, a 500-kilovolt connection between northern and southern Nevada. The plant employs five.

Ormat last year signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with Southern California Public Power Authority, a joint powers authority of 11 local municipalities which is reselling the energy to Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Burbank Water and Power. Ormat is receiving a full rate of $99 per megawatt hour under the PPA, making it comparable with agreements reached for power generated by plants based on higher-temperature geothermal resources.

Producing power using geothermal resources with temperatures as low as 260 degrees requires plants built with binary technology. That system uses a secondary liquid boiling at a lower temperature than water to produce a vapor that drives the turbines to generate power. The technology is inherently less efficient than the flash technology used with 320-degree geothermal resources, but Ormat says it was able to squeeze more efficiency out of the Mineral County plant in several ways.

“There a few things that are very important about this project,” says Bob Sullivan, Ormat’s vice president of business development in Reno. “We built the plant fast, in nine months. The less time we spend developing the resource the better return for investors.”

The company was able to do so, in part, by using some pre-manufactured systems. And efficiency was further beefed up by utilizing one Ormat Energy Converter rather than two.

Sullivan says the plant is the largest using low-temperature resources in the United States. He also says this will likely expand the country’s geothermal landscape, although it’s unclear by how much.

“We can look at other resources that were maybe passed over before,” says Sullivan. “It’s very good for the industry.”

The geothermal industry faces stiff competition from other renewable source such as wind and solar, and all are hampered by the abundance of low-cost natural gas.

Sullivan says it’s a boon to Ormat to now be able to sell power into California via the new transmission line since NV Energy has met the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard.

“Having the ability to sell to California from Nevada will keep geothermal industry cooking here,” says Sullivan.