Ormat Technologies Inc., a U.S. developer of renewable power projects, boosted output at a Nevada geothermal plant in the first commercial use of technology developed to tap underground energy sources that can’t be reached with traditional systems.
Ormat increased the capacity of its Desert Peak 2 facility, in Churchill County, Nevada, by about 38 percent, or 1.7 megawatts, according to a statement today from the U.S. Energy Department, which invested $5.4 million in the project.
Desert Peak is the first commercial plant connected to the U.S. power grid to use so-called enhanced geothermal systems, the Energy Department said. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the technology may eventually enable the development of as much as 500 gigawatts of capacity in the country.
The “project represents a critical investment to ensure America leads in this growing global industry,” Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Danielson said in the statement.
Standard geothermal power plants tap underground pockets of steam, which is piped to the surface to drive turbines and create electricity.
In enhanced geothermal systems, water is injected into the ground either at aging power plants where the steam resource has been depleted, or at sites where there are hot rocks and no steam. Once heated, the water is piped back to the surface to make power.