The development of a 121 MW geothermal project in Nevada, USA, will help the country to maintain its position as the world leader in installed geothermal capacity, says US Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has given its backing to the project in the form of a conditional commitment to provide a partial loan guarantee. The project involves the development of three geothermal facilities in two phases by geothermal technology company Ormat.

“Geothermal power offers consistent electricity production 24 hours a day,” said Secretary Chu. “This project will help our nation maintain its position as the world’s leader in installed geothermal capacity, while creating hundreds of jobs in Nevada.”

The three facilities – McGinness Hills, Jersey Valley and Tuscarora – will use Ormat’s OEC modules, which employ a binary organic Rankine cycle, with hot water drawn from wells deep below the earth’s surface. The water’s thermal energy is used to heat a secondary fluid that is vaporized and then forced through a turbine to generate electricity.

The OEC modules typically consist of pre-engineered units that include an integrated vaporiser, preheater, turbine-generator set, condenser and feed pump, all of which work together to convert the geothermal energy to electric power.

The project is expected to avoid nearly 580 000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of over 110 000 vehicles. The project is also expected to produce over one million MWh of power annually, enough to power nearly 88 000 homes.

The project’s entire output will be sold to Nevada Power Company under a long-term power purchase agreement.