Geothermal, Project Development

Priority List: DOI Considers Nearly 500 MW of Geothermal Projects in 2011

In Washington, D.C., five geothermal projects are on a list of 19 that the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) consider as priority projects for developing renewable energy within the National System of Public Lands in 2011.

The list represents projects that have progressed far enough to formally start the environmental review and public participation process, and have the potential to be cleared for approval by the end of the year.

The list includes nine solar projects and five wind projects alongside the five geothermal projects, all of which are located in the western U.S. The five geothermal projects total about 489 MW, or about 12% of potential output of the total 4,000 MW represented by the 19 projects.

Aside from demonstrated progress, the projects must be sited in an area that minimizes impacts to the environment and be largely “low-to-medium conflict,” in accordance with the BLM’s recent policy guidance on pre-application screening. The priority list was developed in collaboration with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, with an emphasis on early consultation.

Eight of the 19 priority projects fall into a category called “connected action” projects, which are projects located on private land. These are projects that require BLM authorization for offsite facilities and provide the opportunity to develop renewable energy without significantly impacting federal lands.

Of the five geothermal projects, four are in Churchill County, Nevada. The fifth is in Beaver County, Utah. That project, the 37 MW Cove Fort project, belongs to Enel Geothermal LLC and is the least advanced of the five. Its status is listed as pending.

The 62 MW Coyote Canyon in Nevada project be longing to Terragen was approved on March 7. It sits on 3,960 acres of public land as well as 760 acres of private land. A draft environmental impact statement has been filed for the 40 MN Salt Wells project belonging to Ormat, which sits on the largest piece of land listed, 7,391 acres. It is also in Nevada.

The largest projects also have draft EIS’ in the pipeline. The first is Vulcan’s 120 MW Salt Wells project on 1,254 acres. The second is a power line to carry 230 MW from the Salt Wells area belonging to Sierra Pacific Power Co. It needs approval for building on 7.4 acres.

This article was originally published by the Geothermal Digest and was reprinted with permission.