VALE, Ore. (AP) — An Eastern Oregon project billed as the state's first industrial-scale geothermal plant is up and running.
The Neal Hot Springs plant in Malheur County is generating 28 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 25,000 to 28,000 homes, the Ontario Argus Observer (http://bit.ly/14l4xMF ) reported.
The initial output target was 22-23 megawatts. Idaho Power buys the electricity.
Several hundred people worked on construction of the plant west of Vale and upstream of Bully Creek Reservoir. The plant is expected to have 20 long-term jobs. It's still getting final touches from the contractor, said Saf Dhillon of U.S. Geothermal Inc., of Boise.
The company — which also has projects at Raft River, Idaho, and San Emidio, Nev. — has talked about a second phase at Neal Hot Springs, but it doesn't, at this point, have plans for further development, Dhillon said.
As the Neal Hot Springs project was being developed, U.S. Geothermal's chief operating officer, Doug Glaspey, estimated a potential of 30,000 megawatts from geothermal sources in the Western United States.
Small-scale geothermal development goes back decades in Oregon, at such hot spots as Klamath County, where residential and business use of underground heat is common. Newer industrial-scale projects include the Vale plant and the exploration of geothermal potential at Newberry National Volcanic Monument.
At Neal Hot Springs, U.S. Geothermal's system pumps water at about 300 degrees from a reservoir 2,500 feet underground. It turns refrigerant into a vapor that turns a turbine and runs a generator. The water is injected back into the ground at a temperature of 140 to 150 degrees to be reheated.
Information from: Argus Observer, http://www.argusobserver.com