New Zealand is known for its geothermal power plants, but here in the U.S., geothermal technology has been used almost exclusively for purposes of heating and cooling. That’s about to change, as Ormat Technologies recently announced that last year it brought online the nation’s only utility-scale geothermal power plant in Jersey Valley, Nevada.
This 15 megawatt (MW) capacity facility is currently in the commissioning phase, operating at partial load, but is expected to commence full load operation within the second quarter of this year. Like the heat pumps used by geothermal heating and cooling systems, the new plant works by exploiting the temperature differential between atmospheric and subterranean air. Unlike heating and cooling systems, the Jersey Valley plant makes use of the Ormat Energy Converter, a power generation unit that converts low, medium and high temperature heat into electrical energy.
Ormat was able to build this project with equity and corporate debt and plans to refinance it upon completion with U.S. Department of Energy-backed guarantee funds. According to Ormat, this funding strategy has allowed the company to shorten the timeline towards development while providing flexibility during construction.
The electricity being produced by this plant–located at the northern end of Dixie Valley, along the Pershing-Lander County line–will be sold to Nevada Energy under a 20-year power purchase agreement.