Central Oregon

Geothermal on the rise across the U.S.

Tests near Newberry Crater prove successful

Geothermal on the rise across the country

BEND, Ore. - A new report released Tuesday by the Geothermal Energy Association shows geothermal projects were up 5 percent in 2012.

That number is only expected to increase over the next several years as new technologies like the one being tested near the Newberry Crater continue to show positive results.

Some experts say the state of Oregon is headed in the right direction.

"The potential in Oregon is huge, and so little is developed," said Bill Glassley of the California Geothermal Energy Collaborative. "They're talking about probably around 540 megawatts."

Glassley says Oregon needs to address the uncertainties that have held back major development.

"The upfront costs are high for exploration and drilling," Glassley said. "The risks are high, in terms of not hitting the resource that you want when you punch a hole in the ground."

But AltaRock and Davenport Newberry Holdings say they've made a major breakthrough in tapping Central Oregon's underground power near the Newberry Crater.

AltaRock says they have been able to pump water nearly 11,000 feet below the surface of the earth. They have created pockets within existing cracks and sealed them off with a biodegradable plastic.

"This is the first time the multiple zones stimulation, the creating multiple reservoirs if you will has been done anywhere on the planet," David Stowe of AltaRock said Tuesday.

Stowe says this spring, the company will conduct flow tests on the water they pumped deep into the earth. If all goes according to plan, this will open up more opportunities for geothermal around the world.

"The fact that we can create multiple reservoirs, what it does is it double, triples, quadruples the amount of power you can produce of a single well head," Stowe said.

With heavy snow near the test site, scientists are waiting for the spring thaw to get a better picture of what's going on deep beneath their feet.

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