Geothermal Electric Plant Planned in N.M.

July 3, 2008

Publicly traded Raser Technologies Inc. of Provo, Utah, said Wednesday that it is planning to build New Mexico's first commercial geothermal electric generation plant. The plant will be constructed on 2,500 acres in Hidalgo County near Lordsburg and produce enough power for about 5,500 homes.   

The geothermal plant will generate 11 megawatts for the Phoenix market under a 20-year purchased power agreement with the Salt River Project, an Arizona utility. Terms of that deal were not be disclosed. Raser said Wednesday that it has begun taking delivery of geothermal power generating units manufactured by United Technologies that will be used for the project. Fifty units will be installed at the Hildalgo County site, known as Lightning Dock.   

The plant will be designed to generate enough electricity to power about 5,500 homes, but the geothermal resource is probably sufficient to allow production of about twice as much energy, said Richard Putnam of Raser's investor relations department.   

About 100 jobs will be created during construction of the plant, Putnam said. Perhaps a dozen people will be needed to operate it.    The site, on leased Bureau of Land Management property in New Mexico's Bootheel, has long been known to contain geothermal resources. A commercial greenhouse there has used geothermal energy for years.   

Putnam said that the hot water occurring naturally underground is about 300 degrees and that most geothermal power plants need 400-degree water, so the resource was never used for electricity production. He said Raser looks for resources that have been passed over by other companies as unusable, then employs proprietary technology designed to tap lower-temperature geothermal energy. Raser expects to begin operating a geothermal power plant in Utah this year and has resources in four other states.   

The hot water is pumped out of the ground, and it turns to steam. The steam's kinetic energy powers turbines that generate electricity. Putnam said the electricity will enter transmission lines near Lightning Dock for delivery to Phoenix. The water is reinjected into the ground.   

The plant uses no conventional fuels, emits no pollutants and has no effect on groundwater, Putnam said. He added that traditional coal-fired power plants are becoming more difficult to build because of greenhouse gas concerns, so utilities are buying more alternative energy.  Raser is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. At the close of trading Wednesday, Raser sold for $9.74, up 7 cents a share.

Source: The Albuquerque Journal © 2008