How does geothermal energy captured near southern California’s Salton Sea help us here in the Valley of the Sun? You’d be surprised.
Salt River Project is now receiving a significant amount of renewable energy from the recently completed Hudson Ranch I geothermal plant located in California’s Imperial Valley. The utility-scale plant, developed by El Centro-based EnergySource, is now providing enough energy to power about 26,000 average-size Valley homes.
What’s great about geothermal energy is not only does it help SRP hit our sustainable portfolio goals by meeting 20 percent of our retail electricity requirements through sustainable resources by the year 2020; it also produces clean energy 24/7 — not just when the sun shines or the wind blows.
Unlike other forms of renewable energy such as solar or wind, geothermal power plants produce energy continuously, irrespective of the time of day or weather conditions. A geothermal power plant produces electricity from naturally occurring heat below Earth’s surface, and importantly, geothermal is considered renewable energy because no fuel is consumed and the energy is from a naturally occurring source.
Another benefit to Valley residents is that by purchasing this geothermal power in southern California and transmitting it to Arizona, SRP is actually helping with electric reliability. Since the prevailing flow of power from Arizona’s Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station to California is westward, the Hudson Ranch output heading here actually reduces congestion on the Western grid.
SRP’s purchase of 49.9 megawatts of energy from Hudson Ranch I is only the start of our plans to expand geothermal’s portion of our renewable resource mix from the Salton Sea field, one of the largest and highest-temperature geothermal resources in North America.
SRP signed another agreement last year with EnergySource for the purchase of an additional 49.9 megawatts of geothermal from Hudson Ranch II. This second 30-year agreement calls for SRP to purchase power beginning in mid-2015, when the plant is expected to be completed.
These two geothermal acquisitions, as well as others we are considering, will continue to help us in the future as our sustainable portfolio goal increases each year until 2020. Currently, SRP has exceeded our 9 percent goal of retail energy needs for fiscal year 2012 with sustainable resources such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass energy, hydro power, pricing and energy-efficiency measures.
The geothermal energy coming from southern California’s desert may not be going with the flow, so to speak, but all of Arizona will benefit from it for several years.
• Charlie Duckworth is SRP’s senior director of energy management.