THE GEOTHERMAL resource in Modoc, and shown here in Surprise Valley is mostly untapped, but several projects are on line now to harness the power. One big one is at the Surprise Valley Hot Springs Spa.
Surprise Valley is designated by the U.S. Geological Survey as a “Known Geothermal Resource Area” (KGRA). Substantial research to develop this geothermal potential has taken place in Surprise Valley since the 1950s and continues to occur. A major step in developing this resource occurred recently when Cornerstone Sustainable Energy Corporation entered into an agreement with Warner Mountain Energy Corporation to begin the first phase development of a geothermal energy plant to be located at the Surprise Valley Hot Springs east of Cedarville. This phase of development includes a feasibility analysis, conceptual design, and budgeting to install CSE’s PwrCor engine with required site infrastructure to generate electrical power. The electricity generated would be entirely renewable. Warner Mountain Energy (WME) controls about 1,000 acres at the Surprise Valley Hot Springs. The site has several artesian hot springs free flowing to the surface, delivering about 850 gallons per minute at 205 degrees Fahrenheit. CSE will tap the hot spring water to supply heat to its PwrCor engine. “One of the major costs in developing geothermal power is the drilling. We are bypassing this step by only using the surface flow of hot water,” explains Peter Fazio, Chief Operating Officer for CSE of New York. CSE’s technology is projected to produce 250 kW of electric power with 150 gallons per minute of water at 180 degrees, enough power to service more than 150 homes. At that level of output, the Surprise Valley Hot Springs site represents a potential estimated at 1.5 MW of constant, uninterrupted electric power. “The hot spring water is basically boiling at the surface and will be placed in a “closed loop” heat exchange system which means it will never touch the working fluid. This way it guarantees no possibility for contamination to the environment or any surrounding water sources. The heat or BTU’s are being pulled from the water and transferred to the working fluid without ever touching one another or mixing. The clean, green, concept that surrounds this whole invention is amazing. Simply put, we take the hot water out of an existing stream, run it through the engine and put it back in the stream,” said Curt Rose, partner with the Warner Mountain Energy Corp. Once online, the PwrCor engine will operate at input temperatures and flows that are considerably less than those required by competing technologies. The ability to operate at these lower temperature and flows enables geothermal developers to exploit resources that were previously unusable for the commercial production of electricity, such as piggy-backing onto existing geothermal plants to generate power from their waste water. “The engine is quiet and does not use turbines to generate power. Traditional geothermal plants use ammonia, pentane or other noxious gases for their heat exchange. Their equipment is usually expensive to repair. CSE’s engine uses a non-toxic liquid in its heat exchanger and replacement parts are relatively inexpensive,” said Fazio. The engine, weighing approximately 30,000 pounds is 25 feet long, 8 feet wide and 9.5 feet tall and will be housed in one of the existing buildings at the hot springs. “The engine is about the size of a large horse trailer and will be using hydraulic cylinders like what we see on our tractors to run a generator. I remember asking Peter how loud will the machine be? He said how loud are the cylinders on your tractor? I got to thinking, I never hear them since the engine is always running on the tractor, but I do know you could probably hear a pin drop next to a moving hydraulic cylinder,” said Rose. “This engine has to be quiet because we operate a spa and tranquil facility. Noise would not contribute to the ambiance of our resort,” said Rose. CSE will assume the financial burden of developing the entire project. WME will provide the location, oversight on the engine, and general sweat labor. WME will also monitor the project to see if the grid can support more engines. If so, more engines will be placed beside the original engine inside the building. “We are waiting for the hard contract before giving the go ahead to the company in Carson City to start manufacture,” said Fazio. It will take 90 to 120 days to manufacture and deliver the pretested engine to the hot springs. Because this is the first of its kind, it is estimated that getting the engine up and running will take another 30 days. “This is a prototype for our company and could change energy production worldwide,” said Fazio. CSE has patents on their engine and exclusive rights in the Western Hemisphere. Companies in Europe and Asia are in contact with CSE discussing this new technology. Discussions with the US Dept. of Energy are ongoing. Research contributions to the WME project site have been provided by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Space and Aeronautics Administration (NASA), Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the State of California’s California Energy Commission (CEC), UC Davis, Stanford University and others. Grant funding to university programs has come from sources such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Petroleum Research Fund. “The United States is spending billions of dollars on wars in oil rich countries. Why not take some of that money and invest it in geothermal research and development? We need to educate the public about geothermal energy production, and we need a successful project,” said Fazio. A workshop on geothermal energy, sponsored by UC Davis, is being held on Sat. Aug. 17 from 9 to noon at the Alturas City Hall. The public is invited to attend.For the original please refer to the archive of the Modoc County Record Website
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