US-Backed Geothermal Pumping Power To Grid

More clean energy has come online with help from the 2009 stimulus-backed loan guarantee program.

Ormat Technologies said this week that the McGinness Hills geothermal plant in Lander County, Nev., which actually began putting out power in mid-June, had met requirements for commercial operation under its financing obligations.

ormat geothermal

image via Ormat Technologies

Ormat received a partial guarantee for a $350 million loan – 20 percent of the guarantee was the responsibility of a private lender – under the Section 1705 program that was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The loans supported construction of three geothermal power plants in Nevada. McGinness Hills was the last of the three to go into service.

The Tuscarora plant went online earlier this year and the Jersey Valley plant went online in 2011.

McGinness Hills has a net generating capacity of 30 megawatts and the three plants together have a net capacity of around 63 MW. Power from the projects is sold under long-term agreements to NV Energy.

“McGinness Hills demonstrates our ability to develop a successful greenfield project categorized as a blind system,” Yoram Bronicki, president and chief operating officer of Ormat. Bronick, said in a statement. “Blind geothermal systems, defined by a lack of surface hot springs or fumaroles, are the future of geothermal energy growth in the western United States.”

Republicans have charged repeatedly that the loan guarantee program that backed Ormat was either corrupt, too risky or backed projects that could have gotten private financing. But in recent months some have added, oddly enough, that some projects have been slow to draw on their loan guarantees and build out.

During a June hearing, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) was especially critical of Prologis for not quickly using a loan guarantee it received to work with Bank of America to put massive amounts of solar PV on commercial warehouses around the country. Prologis Co-CEO Walter Rakowich said the project had prepared 15 roofs in Southern California for installation and that the project plan – requiring coordination and agreements with utilities who would take the electricity produced – all along was for most of the installation to happen in years three and four of the project.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.