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  (Source: Reuters/Nichola Groom)

Razer Technologies is creating new green collar jobs in construction and operations and helping to provide America with clean, homegrown power. Here builders finish the cooling tower's foundation for the upcoming plant.  (Source: Razer Technologies)

Engineers from Razer Technologies and United Technologies Corp collaborated to complete the plant design.  (Source: Razer Technologies)

The first 10.5 MW plant will be fully operational by the end of the year, with 7 more coming next year.  (Source: Razer Technologies)
Geothermal is among the hottest alternative energy technologies today.

The tiny Utah town of Minersville is suddenly finding itself a hot topic thanks to its upcoming geothermal plant.  Geothermal energy, the process of using the earth's heat to create and/or harvest steam to produce electricity, is among the most intriguing alternative energy technologies today.  With fossil fuel prices high and with support from big backers such as Google, things are looking good for geothermal energy.

Raser Technologies Inc. at its initial public offering five years was a simple electric motor business with little intention of revolutionizing the alternative energy business.  Somewhere along its journey over the last several years, it had a vision of creating profitable green geothermal power according to Reuters, a dream which has consumed it ever since.  Now it is on the verge of fulfilling that dream.  Construction is nearly finished on the company's plant in tiny Minersville, which will go online later this year providing electricity to 9,000 homes in Anaheim, California. 

The company has no plans of stopping there -- it will complete construction on 7 more plants next year and expects to be turning a profit by the end of next year.  Chief Executive Brent Cook announced the news in an interview at Raser's Provo, Utah, headquarters last Thursday, stating, "After these first couple of plants come online I believe we will be cash flow positive."

While geothermal requires more complex infrastructure and takes more time to deploy, it has an advantage over wind and solar in that it provides steady power around the clock. 

Mr. Cook acknowledges that there were some initial difficulties when the company decided to transition into alternative energy mode in 2005.  He states, "In the case of geothermal... the execution of that plan is all in our hands.  The licensing side of our business requires convincing some other company to take the technology and deploy it into their marketplace, and that's a lot harder to predict."

At first the company tried to acquire geothermal startup Amp Resources; however, the deal fell through with Amp being bought instead by Italian energy company Enel SpA.  In the aftermath of the failed deal, Mr. Cook took the reins and went to work acquiring land leases and capital.  He found a big partner in Merrill Lynch, which signed on to finance up to 155 MW of Razer plants, including a $44M USD investment in the first plant.  Razer Technologies also partnered with United Technologies Corp, which is providing the power generation units. 

The key to Razer's completed approach is to build smaller geothermal plants capable of being constructed within a few months.  This makes the technology more growth-competitive with solar and wind installations.  Mr. Cook describes, "Geothermal usually takes much longer to be built. We've tried to go with an off-the-shelf type of plant design.  It's like Legos that come together."

The plants are expandable if additional capacity is needed.  The company also is unique in that it uses lower temperature water, using steam from a liquid with a lower steam point than water, thus allowing energy harvest from hot water below the 212 degrees Fahrenheit boiling point.  Mr. Cook says, "That allows us to exploit sites that frankly were passed over or thought to not be useful 25 or 30 years ago.  We are going back through and tying up a lot of those opportunities."

With over 200,000 acres in six Western states, Razer Technologies has plenty of room to expand.  Mr. Cook is confident his plant can beat one of its main fossil fuel competitors -- natural gas.  He concludes, "We're seeing a lot of utilities recognize that geothermal is much more competitive than natural gas and has zero fuel risk exposure."

The first plant will produce 10.5 MW when complete.  The projected plant lifetime is 35 years.  

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RE: Need bigger plants
By FITCamaro on 9/2/2008 10:33:54 AM , Rating: 2
One question I have now that I noticed it, why is the plant's lifetime only 35 years?

RE: Need bigger plants
By GreenyMP on 9/2/2008 10:48:43 AM , Rating: 5
After 35 years they will have cooled to core of the earth to the point that it can no longer boil the liquid.

That was complete crap, but it sounded pretty reasonable to me.

RE: Need bigger plants
By snownpaint on 9/3/2008 1:09:18 PM , Rating: 3
That's what I was thinking..
What happens as they cool the molten spinning core and disrupt our magnetosphere. Then we will have to live underground as our sun burns off our surface and radiates all life. All for Geothermal energy.

just in case you missed it <sarcasm>

RE: Need bigger plants
By fri2219 on 9/2/2008 11:32:34 AM , Rating: 2
One major reason is that the extremophiles living in the cracks of hydrothermal systems like "eating" the metal in the pipes, especially chromium, tungsten, nickel, and iron.

Another is that the groundwater and underlying magma move around and the lifetime of the source beds is limited.

RE: Need bigger plants
By retrospooty on 9/2/2008 11:47:47 AM , Rating: 5
Damn Extremophiles... Wait... Are they liberal or conservative?

RE: Need bigger plants
By michael2k on 9/2/2008 12:12:24 PM , Rating: 5
They are extreme!

RE: Need bigger plants
By spuddyt on 9/2/2008 1:56:07 PM , Rating: 2
yeah, but are they eco terrorists or just plain old nationalists?

RE: Need bigger plants
By yaju on 9/2/2008 4:06:31 PM , Rating: 2
geothermal power production uses temperatures (approx 200 Celsius) that can be found in rocks a few kilometers below ground. Electricity is generated by pumping high pressure water down a borehole into the heat zone. The water travels through fractures in the rock, capturing the heat of the rock until it is forced out of a second borehole as superheated water, which is then converted into electricity using a binary steam power plant system.
Since the natural sources are limited there is limitation in implementation of large projects.though some of you would say that its applicable Hot Dry Rock Geothermal Energy system and not to Enhanced Geothermal Systems(here we force pump the water) ,still availability of natural fissures or geysers for such project is limited.
Generally such projects have operating life cycle of 20-40 yrs.The main reason for short life cycle is fall in temperature at earths crust. A small drop in temp abt 5 degree can reduce the efficiency of plant from 35% to 20%.But the reserves can be utilized again once the temp rises again(20-60 yrs).

RE: Need bigger plants
By JoeOnRoute66 on 9/2/2008 11:45:17 PM , Rating: 2
Another issue that seems to rarely come up with natural gas production or geothermal plants, radioactive materials must be dealt with. This will vary from site to site, but the high temperatures enhance leaching these contaminants and require additional waste handling.

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