Utah an active player in geothermal market, with 11 new projects in development

Published: Tuesday, April 3 2012 11:37 p.m. MDT

PacifiCorp's Blundell geothermal power plant near Milford, Beaver County, came online in 1984 and was the first in the country outside of California. A new report released by the Geothermal Energy Association indicates Utah continues to be a strong player in the geothermal industry, with 11 projects in development this year.

Rocky Mountain Power

WASHINGTON — Utah continues to be a strong player in the geothermal industry, outpacing most of its neighboring states in electrical generation and on tap to increase capacity with 11 projects under development.

A new report by the Geothermal Energy Association released Tuesday identifies eight additional geothermal prospects for power development  in Utah.

The annual U.S. Geothermal Power Production and Development Report tracked industry activity throughout 2011 and for the first quarter of 2012, indicating the geothermal industry experienced sustained and steady growth, adding 91 megawatts of newly-installed capacity. A megawatt is enough to power 500 homes.

Overall, the United States has about 3,187 megawatts of installed geothermal capacity — more than any other country in the world — accounting for 3 percent of the renewable energy-based electricity consumption in the United States.

In Utah, geothermal energy consumption in terms of renewables is second to hydroelectric power and ahead of wind and solar.

While nowhere near the capacity of California  — the nation's leader in installed capacity for geothermal resources at 2615.4 megawatts or Nevada's 469 megawatts — Utah has outpaced most other Western states and remains a hotspot for would-be developers, the report said.

Utah's 42 megawatts comes from PacifiCorps' Blundell plant near Milford and Raser Technology's Hatch/Thermo Hot Springs plant in Beaver County. It tops neighboring states like Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, which lack any operating geothermal power plants and is ahead of Idaho's 15.8 megawatts or Wyoming's 0.25.

Utah, in fact, became the second state in the country — behind California — to have an operating geothermal plant when Blundell was completed in 1984.

The state is one of 9 across the country producing geothermal-generated power, but a total of 15 states have projects in some phase of development, according to the report.

Overall, the industry has 130 confirmed geothermal projects on the table for this year in the United States.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com Twitter: amyjoi16

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