A conditional loan guarantee to help build a 23-megawatt (MW) capacity geothermal power plant in southeastern Oregon is all set. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) finalized a $96.8 million guarantee to U.S. Geothermal for the Neal Hot Springs project in Malheur County, down just slightly from the $102.2 million that had been conditionally approved in June 2010.

The DOE characterized U.S. Geothermal’s plans for the project as innovative, saying the company will use a technology, known as a “supercritical binary geothermal cycle,” to extract energy from rock and fluids in the earth’s crust more efficiently than traditional geothermal binary systems. This makes lower-temperature geothermal resources available for power generation.

Neal Hot Springs, geothermal power project, Oregon
image via U.S. Geothermal

Though in Oregon, the Neal Hot Springs site is 90 miles northwest of Boise, Idaho, and power from the project will go to Idaho Power Company under a 25-year purchase agreement.

As with most government-backed renewable-energy projects, this one comes with plenty of assurances of job creation.  U.S. Geothermal put the number around 150 construction jobs, then a dozen permanent jobs as well as “many more supply chain jobs across several states, including Texas, California and Ohio.” And both of Oregon’s U.S. senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, hit on that point in statements that accompanied the announcement. “Right now Oregonians need jobs and that is exactly what this project will deliver,” Merkley said. “Our state can be the worldwide leader in geothermal energy production, and this project brings us closer to that vision.”

According to the Geothermal Energy Association, geothermal development creates more jobs than conventional energy. Moreover, geothermal energy jobs are permanent, full-time, and often provide a higher wage, in some cases coming in at double county and state averages, the group says.

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