Alaska Opens Its First Geothermal Power Plant
Chena Hot Springs/Chena Power and United Technologies have successfully commissioned and started up the first geothermal power plant in Alaska. "This project represents a major milestone in the utilization of low-temperature geothermal resources," comments Gwen Holdmann, vice president for new development of the Chena Hot Springs Resort.
Chena Hot Springs, just outside Fairbanks, is the first geothermal power plant to come on-line in the state. It now also is the site of the lowest temperature resource (165 F) ever used for commercial power generation in the world, notes Bernie Karl, proprietor of the resort.
An official ribbon-cutting ceremony and dedication of the 200 kW geothermal power plant is scheduled for Aug. 20.
Chena is the first geothermal distributed generation project, allowing the resort to meet its power needs without relying on a utility grid, and is expected to open the door for similar projects at spas, greenhouses and other geothermal sites. "Chena will be the first of many such applications in Alaska and other states," notes Karl Gawell of the Geothermal Energy Association. "As technology advances to allow lower temperature generation, it will dramatically expand the potential for new geothermal power development."
Regarding the potential for the new technology, Bernie Karl recently testified to the Senate Energy Committee that "if every producing oil and gas well in Texas alone used this technology, the same power generation technology being tested right now at Chena Hot Springs in Alaska, we could generate 5,000 MW of power from this renewable geothermal resource."
The Chena Hot Springs geothermal power plant currently is operating as the base load for the site, and United Technologies representatives are on hand, completing performance tests by varying the hot and cold water flow rates. The Chena power plant is running off 162.5 F hot water from a 700-foot deep well. The cooling water source is from a cold water well at a higher elevation than the power plant, and is delivered via siphon, meaning no pump is needed to move the cold water through the power plant.
For more information on the power plant, visit Chena's project Web site at www.yourownpower.com.