Oregon logs solid geothermal grades

AltaRock's Newberry project

The AltaRock project in Central Oregon is one of several state projects to draw kudos from the Geothermal Energy Association.

A national geothermal group says Oregon has become one of the industry’s hotspots.

The Washington, D.C-based Geothermal Energy Association cited Oregon’s 18 geothermal ongoing and planned projects as well as the state’s efforts to build the industry as proof that Oregon is serious about developing the emerging energy form.

The group issued its annual report Tuesday morning.

“A strong (renewable portfolio standard) has incentivized Oregon to develop a significant amount of geothermal projects,” the Association wrote. “The state has established that large utilities — those with 3 percent or more of the state’s load — must ensure that 20 percent of the electricity sold to retail customers is renewable by 2020.”

The Geothermal group found that installed geothermal capacity grew in the U.S. by 5 percent last year. Seven new projects came online nationally last year.

Oregon is one of eight states with operating geothermal plants.

The group cited AltaRock Energy Inc.’s Newberry project in Deschutes County as a good example of an “enhanced geothermal system.” While the project is still in the testing and research phase, Altarock has uncovered several geothermal zones at the site.

The company intends to eventually build a “utility-scale” power plant at the site.

Oregon ranks behind California, Nevada and Utah in terms of geothermal projects operating or under construction.

Seven new geothermal projects became operational in 2012. Some 175 geothermal projects are underway in the United States.

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