49.9-MW Hudson Ranch I Geothermal Plant Unveiled in California

EnergySource hosted the unveiling of its 49.9 Hudson Ranch I geothermal plant, now renamed John L. Featherstone Plant – a geothermal innovator in the Salton Sea area, today in Imperial Valley, California. Commissioned on March 9th, it is the first geothermal plant to go online in the Salton Sea area in 20 years. Recognizing the area’s huge potential capacity of reportedly up to two gigawatts, EnergySource expects to start drilling for its 49.9 Hudson Ranch II project this summer and hopes to start construction in 2013.

“The Salton Sea geothermal field is among the world’s largest and highest temperature resources because it lies directly inside an active plate tectonic boundary,” said said Dennis V. McGinn, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) and keynote speaker at the unveiling. 

The Salton Sea landscape posed some difficulties during construction – heavy mineralization within the brine threatened to clog the geothermal system. EnergySource partnered with Simbol Minerals to manage an extraction process, which required extra infrastructure to clear the brine. The extracted minerals will then be used to manufacture batteries. The EnergySource-Simbol partnership is expected to continue throughout the construction of Hudson Ranch II.

“In addition to generating thermal power, Salton Sea geothermal brines are well-known for their exceptionally high concentrations of minerals. These minerals include lithium, manganese and zinc, which are important to battery and energy storage technology, and are truly a national strategic asset,” said McGinn. 

The decision to rename the plant after Featherstone was a simple one: A geothermal pioneer in the Salton Sea area since the 1970s and one of the founders of EnergySource, Featherstone has contributed several patents that have influenced plant design, the recovery of minerals from geothermal brine and more.

“John Featherstone was here at the very inception of geothermal energy in the Salton Sea resource and has built his entire career here,” said Dave Watson, CEO of EnergySource. “His ideas and inventions can be found in every process improvement to make power generation more efficient, or even possible, in this very challenging resource. He is truly dedicated to the success of our new plant and the success of the entire geothermal industry.”  

The $400 million project underwent construction in 2010 and created over 200 construction jobs; it now employs 55 full-time workers. It is working at its full 49.9 MW capacity, and power is sold to the Salt River Project in Arizona under a 30-year PPA (Power Purchase Agreement).

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Former editor of RenewableEnergyWorld.com. I hold a MA in Professional Writing and BA in English from the University of Massachusetts and a certificate in Professional Communications: Writing from Emerson College.

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