1,000+ MW of geothermal power generation capacity – the story of POWER Engineers

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Alexander Richter Alexander Richter 14 Dec 2018

With the introduction of the 1 GW Geothermal Country Club of countries with more than 1,000 MW of geothermal power generation capacity, we naturally also need to highlight some of the companies behind that. One of them is POWER Engineers that is proud having worked on geothermal projects of a total of more than 1,000 MW in capacity.

At ThinkGeoEnergy we have been pushing a rather exclusive club, the 1 GW Country Club – of geothermal countries with more than 1,000 MW of installed geothermal power generation capacity. So while the U.S., Indonesia, the Philippines, New Zealand and as of recent Turkey are a rather exclusive not to say limited group of countries, there are companies behind that development that might not make the headlines. There are naturally the turbine suppliers, whose turbines are powering these plants, but there are also the engineering firms behind it.

POWER Engineers is one of the companies. The company has a rather unique position in geothermal energy having worked of projects with more than 1,000 MW in total geothermal power generation capacity, which the company shared in an overview released last year, published here below.

It’s no secret that here at POWER, we love all things geothermal. We love the challenge and complexity each geothermal power plant brings. We love being part of an industry that provides renewable baseload power—often to developing countries. And we love that geothermal projects keep us employed.

That love, along with hard work, long hours and many transoceanic flights, has brought POWER into the rather exclusive 1GW club. With the completion of Kizildere-3 Unit 1 earlier this year, we have now designed more than 1,000 MW of installed geothermal capacity.

What’s the big deal?

One GW may not seem like a big amount. In the fossil fuel industry, a 1,000+ MW project is not uncommon at all. In fact, POWER is currently supporting Gemma Power Systems with design of the Freedom Generating Plant—a 1,050 MW combined cycle electric generating station located in Pennsylvania. That’s 1,050 MW from a single project! Even the wind and solar industries see tens of thousands of MW come online every year. However, geothermal is a completely different animal. Our geothermal design projects average about 40 MW. And because the geothermal industry is small, there are not a lot of projects up for grabs each year.

Since geothermal projects are only feasible in certain places of the world (think Pacific Ring of Fire), it’s tough to be prolific in the industry. However, for the past three decades, POWER has been successful in geothermal. Designing 1,000 MW of completed projects proves that. “Reaching 1GW is a huge milestone for us,” says POWER-Hailey’s Kevin Wallace, director of geothermal projects. “Getting to 1,000 MW takes time and dedication.”

Getting to 1,000 MW

POWER’s foray into geothermal began in the late 1980s with the design of some well-fields, which collect hot fluid from production wells for delivery to the power plant. When EPC prime contractor Stone & Webster declined the well-field design and build-out portion of the East Mesa Geothermal Plant in California, they recommended a small engineering firm by the name of POWER Engineers to the client, GEO East Mesa Limited Partnership. POWER-Boise’s Mike Lidinsky, senior business development manager, was the Lead Controls Engineer at Stone &Webster at that time.

“We knew POWER would do a good job, but they were not really big enough to be any real competition for us in the geothermal market.” He was wrong about that! The project introduced POWER to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which ended up taking us all over the world to work on big geothermal projects—the first being the 52 MW plant in Mindanao, Philippines, in 1997. Geothermal plants in Costa Rica, Mexico and Kenya quickly followed. Thanks to Mitsubishi, POWER became one of the most well-known designers of geothermal power plants in the world.

“Our design teams are the industry’s best,” says POWER-Hailey’s Tim Dunford, project engineer. “Everyone works very well together and we provide great field support.” Each plant designed taught POWER something new and contributed to our overall MW count. A few of the more noteworthy geothermal plants POWER designed include the 121 MW Darajat III geothermal plant in Indonesia, the 76 MW San Jacinto plant in Nicaragua, the 47 MW Stillwater and 19 MW Salt Wells plants in Nevada, and the 50 MW Los Azufres plant in Mexico.

In conjunction with full detailed design, our efforts on feasibility studies, operating plant solutions and due diligence efforts all helped to develop our collective wisdom. In 2007, we began designing geothermal plants in Turkey. The first, Germencik I, was the largest geothermal plant in Turkey at the time. Next came Kizildere-2, where our team applied an innovative combined cycle using hybrid flash/binary technology to take advantage of the particular resource conditions. We even received a patent on our cycle design. Kizildere-2 set a new standard for innovative and ambitious heat recovery from a renewable energy resource.

The 1 GW club…and counting

In 2017, with the competition of Kizildere-3 Unit 1, POWER joined the 1 GW club. The project also ushers Turkey into the “1 GW country” club, of which there are only three other members worldwide: the United States, the Philippines and Indonesia [now New Zealand is back in the club].

We have worked on geothermal projects in all the countries that have more than 1 GW of installed geothermal capacity.

Turkey, along with Indonesia and Kenya, is leading the world in geothermal capacity additions. We are well-positioned to contribute to many of those additions through feasibility studies, detailed plant and well-field design, and owner’s or independent engineering. Our geothermal teams are hard at work on studies and plant designs in countries such as Costa Rica, Kenya, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Saint Lucia, Turkey and the U.S. It looks like more transoceanic flights are on the horizon for our teams. “Our geothermal projects send us all over,” says POWER-Boise Mechanical Engineer Matt Fishman. “I get to travel to interesting sites that I ordinarily would not have had a chance to visit if my focus was purely in the U.S.”

Fishman is part of the next generation of engineers at POWER who are working towards our next gigawatt of installed geothermal capacity. As long as countries like Turkey and Kenya continue to develop their geothermal resources, we will continue to design cutting-edge geothermal technology that makes the world just a little more sustainable.