Raser ready to flip the switch on Beaver geothermal plant

Clean energy » Utah company cites milestone in green energy production
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Within the next week, Raser Technologies Inc. expects to begin transmitting around 7 megawatts of electricity generated at its new geothermal plant outside of Beaver to the city of Anaheim in Southern California.

Raser is touting the Millard County plant as a breakthrough in geothermal energy production -- one capable of generating electricity from low-temperature wells that until now weren't viewed as hot enough to produce power.

"We're now ready to begin ramping up the plant," said Richard Putnam, spokesman for the Provo-based Raser Technologies. "This is a big step for our company, and for geothermal energy production in this country."

Initially, Raser will be sending Anaheim 7 megawatts of power but that amount will rise to 10 to 11 megawatts during the next several weeks as the company finishes linking additional geothermal wells to the plant.

Anaheim will be paying $78 per megawatt-hour for the electricity, or about 30 percent to 40 percent more than the cost of electricity generated at a coal-fired plant. A megawatt is enough electricity to serve about 750 homes.

"We're excited about getting this power," said Steve Sciortino, the integrated resource manager for Anaheim's Public Utilities Department. "We're also working with them on taking some of the additional power they expect to produce in the future."

Raser's plant, located about 35 miles west of Beaver, uses a new technology developed by UTC Power, which is a division of United Technologies Corp. and a sister company to Carrier Corp., known for its heating and air conditioning products.

Built in just more than a year, the plant uses 50 modular generating units that have been described as essentially air conditioning units that operate in reverse. Hot water from the ground flows into each unit. The water heats a fluid that turns a turbine. Electricity comes out and the cooled water is returned to the ground for reheating.

"Our low-temperature technology can make geothermal a mainstream source of energy for the nation," Raser Chief Executive Brent Cook said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the plant in early November.

Securities analyst Ryan McGaver of Capstone Investments described the company's announcement that it is ready to begin transmitting power for Anaheim as a positive event that illustrates Raser's ability to build its modular generating sites in a reasonable time frame.

"It has been slightly less than one year since the power purchase agreement [with Anaheim] was first inked," McGaver said in a newly released research report.

He also suggested the plant's launch could improve Raser's bargaining position in future power purchase discussions "as it will have a proven record of fulfilling commitments. We expect future announcements to be at rates above the $78 [per megawatt hour] agreed upon with the city of Anaheim."

Along with its plans to expand its Utah plant, Raser is also developing new geothermal generation projects in New Mexico, Oregon and Nevada.