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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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Green Collar
By Ringold on 9/2/2008 1:14:43 PM , Rating: 2
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.

I really hope this "green collar" empty rhetoric doesn't catch on. They are just construction workers, doing what construction workers do. Constructing. What's so special about what they are doing versus comrades perhaps down the street building a pharmacy? They're doing what their masters tell them, and both their masters are just building something that they hope provide some revenue. Jobs are jobs.

I know what the implied difference is; it's an attempt to attach moral superiority to one sort of job and/or investment over another. That's a little dangerous, and pointless. At least the blue collar / white collar description makes sense; low skill and high skill, roughly, or physical labor versus service based labor. No such distinction with 'green collar', just "Democrats say this is righteous." Politics in economics = great way to end up with things like corn ethanol.

Just because Democrats rant on about the 21st century equivalent of paying one group of men to dig a ditch and another to fill it doesn't mean the term needs to survive the political arena and enter mainstream use.

RE: Green Collar
By jbartabas on 9/2/2008 1:26:25 PM , Rating: 3
My guess is that there for many people using that expression, it's not about 'implied [...] moral superiority'. I think that the idea is that many types of blue collar jobs have been and will still be on a decreasing trend in western countries because many of these jobs have been shipped to cheap and unqualified manpower. However, a new kind of blue collar jobs could end up being created to reverse or slow this trend.

The idea of 'green collar' would be a new generation of blue collar jobs (as well as white collar jobs of course), that won't be shipped abroad as easily due to the higher requirements in terms of technical expertise and experience. In short, it is the workforce of the green economy, the new 'new economy'. Of course that's just how I see it.

RE: Green Collar
By Ringold on 9/2/2008 10:31:56 PM , Rating: 1
Higher requirements of technical expertise and experience... Looks to me in those pictures like they were doing little special. Perhaps different than building, say, a bank, but what's special about it? How can green collar be a reference to a new class of worker (which is what the distinction is between white and blue) when these workers are doing things similar to other workers that have existed for decades in some cases, millenia in others?

As for building the things, look around. Anything can be manufactured anywhere and imported. All that has to be done locally is installation. Africa has realized, to its consternation, that even construction/installation teams can be imported, used, then taken back home on infrastructure projects. All thats really left is maintenance and upkeep. Sorry. Wiping dirt off solar panels will not require an advanced degree, and those people behind the scenes remotely managing their output are probably agnostic to what process actually creates the power, be it solar or coal.

I am impressed however by your ability to reach so deep to pull a rationalization out, even if it makes absolutely no sense.

RE: Green Collar
By FITCamaro on 9/2/2008 2:36:23 PM , Rating: 2
Well said.

"I f***ing cannot play Halo 2 multiplayer. I cannot do it." -- Bungie Technical Lead Chris Butcher
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