Geothermal Project Becomes First of Its Kind on Electric Grid

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The U.S. Department of Energy announced on Friday that Ormat Technologies' Desert Peak 2 EGS project in Churchill County, Nev., has become the first commercial enhanced geothermal system project to supply electricity to the grid. Here are the details.

* Enhanced geothermal system projects capture power from hot rocks that are buried thousands of feet below the earth's surface. The rocks lack the fluid saturation found in naturally occurring geothermal systems, the Department of Energy reported.

* Enhanced Geothermal Systems use directional drilling and pressurized water to capture energy from resources formerly considered uneconomical or unrecoverable.

* Wells are drilled thousands of feet into the earth, where the temperature reaches more than 350 degrees Fahrenheit, the energy department reported. Cold water is then pumped into the wells, causing the hot rock to crack. The water travels through these small fractures, is heated and then pumped to the surface, where its pressure decreases and creates steam that drives turbines and generates electricity.

* Ormat Technologies received $5.4 million from the Energy Department, as well as $2.6 million in private sector investment, to work on extending the life of previously unproductive geothermal wells.

* Since the project's 2008 start, the Department of Energy reported, Ormat has been working with other partners, including the U.S. Geological Survey and the Lawrence Berkeley and Sandia National Laboratories to develop cost-effective technologies that are also environmentally friendly.

* In 2011 , Ormat also received a partial guarantee for a $350 million loan from the Department of Energy in order to produce up to 113 megawatts of power from three geothermal power facilities.

* At the time, Energy Secretary Steven Chu stated that the department was investing in geothermal projects that will develop the nation's clean energy sources and create skilled jobs for American workers.

* This week, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Danielson stated that the Churchill County geothermal project "represents a critical investment to ensure America leads in this growing global industry, helping to create new manufacturing, construction and operation jobs across the country while diversifying our energy portfolio and reducing pollution."

* Desert Peak is expected to increase the power output of its nearby operating geothermal field by nearly 38 percent, providing 1.7 megawatts of power to the grid, the Energy Department reported.

* According to the department, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that enhanced geothermal systems in the United States could develop 100 to 500 gigawatts of geothermal resource capacity.

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