image of geothermal power plantCove Fort, Utah is now home to the world’s first operational geothermal-hydropower plant. Enel, the global energy parent company, already has plans to bring this energy-efficient and innovative technology to its other facilities across the globe.

Although our country has been a global leader in geothermal-sourced electricity, most of its capacity comes exclusively from California. Many geothermal advocates hope that the new plant could also finally help kick the geothermal heating and cooling industry into high gear in the U.S.

The Cove Fort project is classified as a medium enthalpy plant, which in simplest terms means that it is located at a less than ideal location for geothermal energy recovery. Although geothermal plants can still be successfully installed at low and medium enthalpy sites, the challenge lies in efficiently converting the geothermal energy into electricity. Due to their relatively low temperatures, the traditional dry steam and flash steam systems that use geothermal fluid directly can’t be employed at low and medium enthalpy sites.

The third alternative is to use a binary cycle, which is the system employed at Cove Fort’s new plant. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory explains that binary cycle power plants use the heat from hot geothermally sourced water to boil a secondary working fluid, which is usually an organic compound with a low boiling point. The working fluid is used to turn a turbine after being vaporized in a heat exchanger before the water is injected back into the ground to be reheated.

The major advantage to binary cycle plants is that the two fluids never come into contact with each other, which results in low levels of or practically zero emissions. Needless to say, the Energy Department has predicted that binary cycle plants will begin to dominate the geothermal heating and cooling industry in the coming years.

At the Cove Fort plant, a turbine has also been added into the well that re-circulates spent water back underground. According to initial test run statistics, the hydro generator offsets about 8.8% of the plant’s energy consumption. Over the two month test period, this translated into an increase in the overall energy output by more than 1,000 megawatt-hours.

With the additional hydropower capability of their Cove Fort plant, Enel has successfully achieved a low impact, high efficiency geothermal and hyrdopowered power plant. Enel’s Cove Fort success story also opens up new possibilities for reclaiming and remodeling abandoned or under-utilized geothermal sites that formerly relied on steam-type energy generation.

When asked about the overwhelming success, Francesco Venturini, head of Enel’s Global Renewable Energies division said, We are creating innovative solutions that are making renewable energy better, stronger and smarter. As a result we have once again discovered a more resourceful way to maximise plant operations and power generation with the aim of using this technology at our facilities around the world.”

We believe that creating comfort from the ground up doesn’t have to be complicated or damage the environment. If you would like more information on heater repair or geothermal energy for your home, please contact D&D HVAC today.