Work of Davenport/ AltaRock continues at Newberry project in Oregon

Work of Davenport/ AltaRock continues at Newberry project in Oregon Drilling rig at Newberry project site, Oregon (source: KOHD)
Alexander Richter 22 Sep 2010

Work continues at the joint project by AltaRock Energy and Davenport Power at the Newberry geothermal project in Oregon.

Reported locally, the work at the Newberry geothermal project by Davenport Power and AltaRock continues.

“Things are happening up on Newberry now,” President of Davenport Power, the company that holds the lease to use the land.”, said in a recent interview with local TV station KOHD.

“With $21.5 million in federal funding and over $22 million in private investment, sights are high for the Newberry geothermal renewable energy project south of Bend.

“What we are moving towards here is being able to develop geothermal technology that can be used anywhere,” said AltaRock President Susan Petty. AltaRock is a partner in the project.

One study from M.I.T. suggests geothermal technology could provide 10% of the nations power by 2050. But with two test wells already in the ground at Newberry, there’s concern about the impact to the landscape.

“Your model showed four, possibly five or more wells. So I’m saying like your surface area,” asked one person at Tuesday’s informational meeting.

Project organizers say it will take up less than five acres above ground. The test wells so far have shown only half of the key components needed to generate power.

“Both of them were very hot but they didn’t have any cracks or fractures with geothermal fluids in them,” said Petty.

Geothermal power works by using fluids, sometimes water, to absorb heat from rocks far below the earth’s surface. The heat is then extracted back at the surface and used to run a generator, creating power. New technology will be used at Newberry to introduce clean water to create cracks in the rocks and create a flow of liquid that can be used to generate electricity. But with new technology, comes new concerns.

“How do you deal with an unknown process of fracturing and where that may go,” asked another person at the meeting.

Project managers admit, one risk is actually creating seismic activity or small earthquakes, none likely to be big enough to be felt. Moving forward they’ll work with the U.S. Department of Energy, carefully monitoring as they go, hoping to reach a safe balance for the ultimate goal of tapping a much needed resource.

“Right now conventional geothermal energy is cheaper than new coal,” said Petty.”