Geothermal picks up speed in Pacific Northwest


By: SGN Staff


Vale, Oregon may be one of those places you've never heard of unless you've been there: it's surrounded by farms, ranches and miles and miles of public lands in the eastern part of the state. But it's also the site of the second geothermal power plant in the Pacific Northwest.


Boise, Idaho-based U.S. Geothermal has built the geothermal plant at Neal Hot Springs near Vale and flipped the switch to begin generating power late last week. According to an Oregon Public Broadcasting story, U.S. Geothermal CEO Daniel Kunz said the site was blessed with a solid source of renewable energy and nearby transmission lines.


The company also built and operates the region's first geothermal plant located in Raft River in southeastern Idaho, in addition to plants in Nevada and a plant under development in Guatemala.


"We have access to a relatively shallow reservoir, It's less than 300 feet deep, which in our business is pretty shallow. It's got the right temperature, so it's near 300 degrees Fahrenheit. And we have had quite a success drilling very prolific production wells," Kunz said. The company is selling all of the energy it generates at Neal Hot Springs to Idaho Power, which serves part of eastern Oregon in addition to southern Idaho.


Geothermal exploration is underway elsewhere in the Northwest too. Washington's Snohomish PUD is working in the North Cascades and a Seattle company is conducting exploratory drilling near Newberry Volcano in Oregon.


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