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Geothermal best option for Northern Marianas Islands

Saipan, Northern Marianas (source: flickr/ ctsnow, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 8 May 2013

In order to lower electricity costs for the Northern Marianas, the island group needs to look at other energy sources than currently used diesel-powered plants and geothermal is the best available option.

Despite the challenges experienced in early work on potential geothermal development in the Northern Marianas, a recent report highlights the fact that geothermal is still the best energy option for the island group.

The only way – so the recent consultant report – to decrease utility costs in the Northern Marianas is through geothermal power.

In 2012 the island state, with U.S. funding, awarded a concession contract for geothermal development to Australian developer KUTh Energy, as reported by ThinkGeoEnergy then. The plan was to drill two test holes, but the “geothermal gradient well project” was then cancelled in September 2012.

So while there seems to have been some political battle and a focus on other energy sources, geothermal seems to be still seen as an option. The Northern Marianas could also count on funding in the form of federal grants from the U.S. Department of the Interior and other federal agencies.

Geothermal is despite high initial costs a valid option, due to fairly low operating costs. Currently the region depends on diesel-powered plants.

While there are initial drilling results available from wells drilled in 2008, which reached temperatures of 120 centigrades. Tight funding was a major challenge then due to a necessary switch from air to mud drilling that required the purchase of additional equipment. SMU university was involved back then.

Drilling wells in the Northern Marianas would likely cost $5 million per well.

Source: Marianas Variety