DOE finalizes $96.8M guarantee for Oregon geothermal project
By Christina Williams
Editor, Sustainable Business Oregon
The U.S. Department of Energy on Thursday finalized a $96.8 million loan guarantee to U.S. Geothermal Inc. to support a geothermal power project in Malheur County, Eastern Oregon.
The guarantee fell slightly short of the $102.2 million that was pre-certified for the project by the department in June but will allow the construction of a 23-megawatt power plant known as Neal Hot Springs to move forward.
The guarantee, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will secure a loan in the same amount from the U.S. Treasury's Federal Financing Bank and will cover about 75 percent of the project's construction costs, according to the Boise-based company. Construction is expected to create about 150 jobs, with about a dozen permanent jobs created to run the plant.
Idaho Power Co. has signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with U.S. Geothermal subsidiary USG Oregon LLC for the power generated by Neal Hot Springs.
The news was applauded by Oregon politicians including Gov. John Kitzhaber who said in a press release: "U.S. Geothermal's project means new jobs in Oregon communities that need them most."
Geothermal energy's promise of consistent, renewable energy from naturally occurring underground sources has long held promise for Oregon, though large-scale plants such as Neal Hot Springs are rare. Renewable Energy World reports that only one such plant was completed in 2010, a 15-megawatt plant in Nevada.
Neal Hot Springs will be closely watched by the geothermal industry. It will employ an improved technology, referred to as a supercritical binary geothermal cycle, that allows lower-temperature geothermal resources to be used for power generation. In addition, initial work at the project's site has shown promising results.
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