Salton Sea Geothermal Revs Up With 49 MW

Salt River Project (SRP) said it has already begun to receive power from the recently completed Hudson Ranch I geothermal plant in the Salton Sea region of Southern California.

The plant, operated by EnergySource, is now providing enough power to supply about  26,000 average-size family homes.

salton sea geothermal, hudson ranch I

image via EnergySource

At a recent dedication the plant was renamed the John L. Featherstone Plant in honor of a technology pioneer and innovator in the Salton Sea geothermal resource.

SRP, a municipal power and irrigation district in Tempe, Ariz., signed a 30-year agreement in 2007 to purchase 49 megawatts (MW) of geothermal energy from Hudson Ranch I. Following on from this, SRP, which has 950,000 customers and is the largest provider of electricity to the greater Phoenix area, signed another agreement last year.

Under the terms of the second deal SRP has agreed to purchase another 49 MW of geothermal from Hudson Ranch II, a second plant operated by EnergySource, which is expected to be completed by 2014, with drilling commencing in the third quarter of 2012.

Construction of the Hudson Ranch I project cost an estimated $400 million. The Salton Sea geothermal field is very hot and very amenable to liquid penetration, but the rocks also contain a high concentration of minerals which makes the drilling and developing more challenging.

Geothermal power comes from capturing the heat emitted naturally by radioactive rocks beneath the surface of the earth. Developers capture the energy by cracking open the rocks and pumping water through them and back up to the surface. The water comes up boiling and the steam rotates a turbine.

Hudson Ranch I has four injection wells for water to flow through the rocks and three production wells that capture the steam. Creating between 15 and 40 MW of power each, the wells are some of the largest geothermal producers in the world.

Unlike other forms of renewable energy such as solar or wind, geothermal offers the advantage that it can produce power without break, regardless of the time of the day or weather conditions. A drawback of geothermal, however, is the major investment needed to start operations: scouting out suitable sites and drilling down to the geothermal rocks is a costly and lengthy process.

Paul Willis has been journalist for a decade. Starting out in Northern England, from where he hails, he worked as a reporter on regional papers before graduating to the cut-throat world of London print media. On the way he spent a year as a correspondent in East Africa, writing about election fraud, drought and an Ethiopian version of American Idol. Since moving to America three years ago he has worked as a freelancer, working for CNN.com and major newspapers in Britain, Australia and North America. He writes on subjects as diverse as travel, media ethics and human evolution. He lives in New York where, in spite of the car fumes and the sometimes eccentric driving habits of the yellow cabs, he rides his bike everywhere.

    • Do you all realize you are causing all of this foul smell, humidity, raised prices for water bills, and earthquakes? Many may be fooled into believing that this energy is so environmentally friendly, but I have spent hours researching and it is not. You are contaminating ground water and releasing toxic vapors into the air. You had better be investing some of your BIG BUCKS to secure a working early warning system for earthquakes in California if you want to be causing this damned fault the Imperial, and Superstition to move. You had better consider what is really going on here and stop being so greedy. Why don’t we have a warning for California anyway? Since you probably think all you scientists have the power to create steam powered BS, do you think being greedy won’t bite you in the ass eventually? Leave the SAN ANDREAS FAULT ALONE!! This could possibly cause a catastrophic event and what then? No one has commented on this page or really any other pages with this Goethermal energy because it is not fully understood or available for residents to argue. I will see to it that if I am mistaken in my facts here that you all will be the people to clear up any misconceptions. All the articles do not fabricate. This rain is really ridiculous too. People are totally clueless to all of this. Every earthquake since Jan 2012 I havelinked a volcano and a Geothermal Power Plant to. Something is going to go wrong eventually. Bad wrong.