One of two new 49.9-MW geothermal plants is already operating at full capacity in Imperial Valley, California near the Salton Sea. It was originally called Hudson Ranch I, but renamed later to John L. Featherstone Plant, to honor a geothermal expert. This new plant is the first of its kind built in the area for twenty years. The second 49.9-MW geothermal project is called Hudson Ranch II and construction is slated to begin in 2013, with a 2015 finish date. Each new plant has been said to be able to generate enough power for 50,000 homes.
“It’s very badly needed. This is the perfect substitute for retiring coal plants. It’s great for desert loads,” said Dave Watson, who is with EnergySource, the company that operates the new plant. He addressed a crowd of about 300 at its’ dedication, saying the El Centro-based company has big plans for the area, due to the robust geothermal activity at the Salton Sea.
Under the surface layers, there are 600-degree waters in the area. The extremely hot brine can be harnessed when using its steam, or by allowing it to heat another liquid which moves turbines. Currently, geothermal plants at the Salton Sea have a generating capacity of about 380 MW.
The first Hudson Ranch geothermal plant cost $400 million and created over 200 construction jobs. Fifty-five full-time workers are employed there currently. The Salt River Project in Arizona is purchasing the power under a 30-year power purchase agreement. Private investors, and eight international banks financed the project.
Even with geothermal plants in the area at 380 MW, it is still underdeveloped and can sustain more new plants being constructed to generate clean energy. The full geothermal potential of the area could be two gigawatts. Additionally, electricity generated by geothermal plants is not subject to the periodic dips of solar and wind power. An assemblyman from Coachella remarked they could have 100-MW and 200-MW geothermal plants there, if there is enough political will and creativity.
Image Credit: Rman 348, Public Domain, Wiki Commons