Geothermal energy plant planned for Klamath wildlife refuge
By Christina Williams
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
If all goes as planned, the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge will the be site of a geothermal plant that can generate power from low-temperature resources.
A geothermal power plant planned in the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex would be the first in the U.S. to tap a new technology that can efficiently convert lower-temperature geothermal resources into electricity.
The plant, which will be developed by Klamath Falls-based Entiv Organic Energy, will use technology developed through a partnership between French energy giant Technip and geothermal specialists Mannvit of Iceland.
The basic system is known as the Kalina Cycle. The plant pulls hot water out of the ground and uses it to heat another liquid, a mixture of water and ammonia that carries a lower boiling point, which in turn creates the steam to power a turbine and generate power.
The closed-loop system can make use of water heated to between 180 degrees and 300 degrees Fahrenheit — geothermal resources previously deemed too chilly to generate power.
In the Klamath River basin, where both water and energy prices are hot topics, such technology holds extraordinary promise.
Take, for example, the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge. The complex has been perpetually short on water in recent years and a jump in power costs in 2004 has made pumping water to replenish wetlands prohibitively expensive.
Drilling in 2002 established a geothermal well with water heated to around 200 F — too hot for the wetland habitat but prime for this new type of low-temperature geothermal power technology.
Ron Cole, refuge manager, learned about the technology from Mike Noonan, president of Entiv.
Noonan, an organic farmer in the basin, formed his company with an eye toward working with Technip to develop a handful of geothermal plants in the region. A participant in the refuge's "Walking Wetland" program — which has farmers hosting temporary, bird-friendly wetlands on their land — Noonan also knew of the refuge's need for a power resource.
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