Print 59 comment(s) - last by rcc.. on Oct 2 at 3:48 PM

  (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 rcc on 9/2/2008 12:29:23 PM , Rating: 2
And its fuel source never runs out

Don't be silly. It leeches heat from the interior of the Earth. Eventually these plants will cool the core and we'll all die. It's a finite source.

Of course, it's a vaaaaaast finite source. : )

As noted, it's better than wind or solar from a reliability standpoint, and who knows what those are going to do the the environment.

I'm mostly just playing here. But only mostly.

RE: Need bigger plants
By FITCamaro on 9/2/2008 2:30:01 PM , Rating: 2
Its a limitless resource for as long as we'll care.

RE: Need bigger plants
By AssBall on 9/2/2008 3:49:32 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, it will last about long as the sun does. Let's petition Al Gore to hold international conventions to "save the sun".

RE: Need bigger plants
By mles1551 on 9/3/2008 12:15:36 AM , Rating: 2
And thats exactly what they used to think about oil.

RE: Need bigger plants
By AssBall on 9/4/2008 10:51:14 AM , Rating: 2
That's what I STIL think about oil.

Look at how much oil per capita a country like France uses for power.

Look at how quickly in the last two decades alternative energies have advanced.

Look at how many trillions of barrels we could very well still have sitting in the ground.
I highly doubt we will "run out" of oil before anyone cares, except maybe people who gobble up the junk fed to them by the media.

RE: Need bigger plants
By Sulphademus on 9/2/2008 3:47:49 PM , Rating: 2
Similarly, all these windmills are going to be obstructing and slowing the earth's natural airflow, reducing the environmental balance of wind and could cause huge devisatation. In 100 years when half the USA (the mid-section) is nothing but windmills, the wind will stop all together and then what?!

RE: Need bigger plants
By Omega215D on 9/2/2008 6:20:21 PM , Rating: 2
Start a butterfly farm. Then we'll see if there truly is a butterfly effect. =D

RE: Need bigger plants
By Quantem on 9/24/2008 12:33:47 PM , Rating: 2
Fire up the windmills again in "blow" mode, using geothermally derived electricity.

RE: Need bigger plants
By iNGEN on 9/27/2008 2:02:27 PM , Rating: 2
That's actually something I have thought of, but never seen actual calculations. Typical horizontal axis prop type windfarms must actually convert only a small proportion of wind energy into electricity, but how much is it actually?

Same goes for the thermal effects of light hitting the earth.

Wouldn't a world powered by Wind and Solar have negative environmental ramifications of its own?

RE: Need bigger plants
By rcc on 10/2/2008 3:48:30 PM , Rating: 2
Shhhhhhh. Don't get them started, or thinking. It's dangerous.

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
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