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Enel’s geothermal plants in Nevada about to go online

Alexander Richter Alexander Richter 3 Mar 2009

Two geothermal plants built near Fallon are almost ready to come online and sell up to 46 megawatts of power to NV Energy, say company executives for developer Enel North America.

Reported by Lahontan Valley News, “Two geothermal plants built near Fallon are almost ready to come online and sell up to 46 megawatts of power to NV Energy, say company executives for developer Enel North America.

Commissioning is under way at the 33-megawatt Stillwater plant, and the 13-megawatt Salt Wells plant should be fully operational by the end of March, says Construction Manager Gary Wick. “Stillwater, we are basically starting it up and getting it running, and we have yet to start commissioning at our Salt Wells plant,” Wick says. “As soon as we can start making power we will push it onto the grid, but we probably won’t be at full capacity until March 31.”

The plants are expected to be at their top production in the wintertime, when conditions for geothermal power generation are at their prime. Wick says 20 people will work at the plants, and at one point there were more than 300 tradesmen working at both sites.  “A lot of people had to stay and eat in Fallon, and that was a tremendous boost to Churchill County,” he says.

The freeze on commercial lending that has stalled new development had no effect on construction at the plants, Wick says. “A project like this is programmed two or three years ahead of time, so this was all with 2005 money.”

The most difficult aspect of the construction, Wick says, was slogging through the cumbersome permitting process. “There is obviously a lot of permitting involved, but that is true with any type of power plant. Permitting is a lot of work.”

Additionally, securing the heavy equipment needed to process the hot water buried deep below the earth’s surface, such as turbo expanders and pumps, required extensive planning.

“All of the big shelf was not available off the shelf,” Wick says. “We had to enter into contracts with various manufacturers, and everything was ordered at least a year ahead of time.”

The new plants use a binary cycle to generate power, meaning hot water pumped from the earth is pumped back.

There was a plant already located at the Stillwater site, capable of generating up to 7 MW of power, but that plant will be decommissioned once the new facility is fully operational. Enel has not yet decided if the old plant will be demolished.

Enel North America, a subsidiary of Enel Green Power of Rome, will have a dedication ceremony in mid-to-late April to kick off operations.”

Source: Lahontan Valley News