A California engineering firm that specializes in geothermal energy will begin work at Provo's steam source, Mother Earth Industries, the project coordinator says.

In a meeting this week with the city's Energy Board, Bud Bonnett announced that the Ben Holt Co. of Pasadena, Calif., was awarded the contract to analyze the resource at the plant in Cove Fort, Millard County.The company will also offer a preliminary design and proposal on what it will cost to boost the power plant from 3.5 megawatts to 10 megawatts.

The Utah Municipal Power Agency is hoping to spend about $7.6 million to expand the facility. About 80 percent of the municipal power agency is owned by Provo. The rest is owned by Spanish Fork, Salem, Nephi, Levan and Manti

Ben Holt Co. will suggest the best equipment, help prepare bid documents and advise the agency on the best bids, Bonnett said.

UMPA will pay Ben Holt Co. $395,000, which was the low bid. The company's work will begin as soon as the second well is completed. Bonnett said the plant should be running by April 1990.

"This is one company that has really taken a geothermal facility from start to finish," he said. "They have been involved in every major geothermal project in the United States. I don't think they would ever put their name on something that isn't right."

Provo City purchased the steam source at the geothermal plant in November, hoping to provide additional power to the city at an inexpensive rate. The city previously paid 69 mills per megawatt for Mother Earth Industries power. Power now costs approximately 36 mills. A mill is equivalent to one-tenth of a cent.

The city - through UMPA - purchased the steam source for $21 million with energy system revenue bonds to be repaid at 7.51 percent interest.

More than $17.9 million will go toward construction at the geothermal plant. The city also plans to install a hydrogen sulfide system to comply with Environmental Protection Agency standards.