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49 megawatt geothermal power plant breaks ground

The Energy Source Hudson Ranch I geothermal plant near Niland will reach completion in early 2012 and produce 49 megawatts of electricity for the Phoenix area.

Dave Watson, president of Energy Source, said the plant relies on geothermal sources underground and is not subject to increasing energy costs.

“It can produce at over 90 percent capacity for 30 years,” he said. “The energy price is hedged.”

Construction began in July, and the ceremonial groundbreaking took place this month. The project is estimated to cost between $350 million and $400 million. The 49 megawatts could power about 37,000 homes.

The plant will run off of hot steam naturally occurring deep beneath the ground. The Salton Sea area is recognized as one of the world’s most active geothermal reservoirs. Steam at the Hudson Ranch I location will surface at ground level at 600 degrees.

“We are directing the steam flash right up into the plant structure,” Watson said.

Larry Grogan, Energy Source senior vice president of resources and development, said the plant will consume about 800 acre-feet of water annually. Grogan said the plant will use the water to dilute the mineral brine as it comes up with the steam. The brine will be diluted with the water so it doesn’t clog the piping as the brine makes it back into the earth.

Watson said it will be the first stand-alone flash geothermal plant in the nation in 20 years. Flash technology re­quires less water. He also said Hudson Ranch II construction will begin in the area in 2012 and last for about two years. There will ultimately be a Hudson Ranch III plant, as well.

Watson and Grogan said the Hudson Ranch I plant will require about 35 full-time positions and 200 construction jobs during peak construction. Watson said Holtville contractor Performance Mechanical Contractors is undertaking construction. They said it is important transmission lines be built to carry the electricity out of the Valley and to the cities.
Gary Wyatt, Imperial County District 4 supervisor, said Energy Source’s Hudson Ranch I geothermal plant will be one of many more new plants that will produce power in the Valley. District 4 in particular, where Hudson Ranch I is located, will likely become a popular area for the Valley’s renewable landscape, he said.

He said adding renewable energy to the Valley’s economy will make it more competitive and that renewable energy might eventually become the Valley’s biggest industry.
“Renewable energy diversifies our economy so we have more than just a farming economy,” Wyatt said. “I think renewable energy will overtake farming as our No. 1 industry.”

By David Steffen Imperial Valley Press Staff