A possible solution to San Diego's growing energy needs may lie along the Salton Sea.
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The Hudson Ranch I geothermal plant is located in town of Calipatria near the Salton Sea. It is the first geothermal plant built in the Salton Sea resource area in 20 years and it has two of the largest production wells in the world.
"It's very badly needed," said Dave Watson, who is with EnergySource, the company that owns the plant. "This is the perfect substitute for retiring coal plants. It's great for desert loads."
The plant is opening at a time when the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station remains offline due to leaking tubes discovered in late January.
The San Onofre plant can supply power to 1.4 million homes. The geothermal plant will power 50,000 homes.
"It's clean energy, so it helps meet the state's renewable energy standard," said Watson.
Here is how geothermal energy is harvested at the plant: one of two wells taps into superheated reservoir water 2 miles below the earth's surface. That fluid is flashed into steam engines that drive turbines inside. The power is then put on the grid and the water is returned to the earth. The process occurs nonstop, 24 hours a day.
The plant was originally called the Hudson Ranch I. On Friday, it was dedicated to John Featherstone, a pioneer in the geothermal world who came to the area in the 1970s to research similar technology.
"For the future, we want to build more plants," said Featherstone. "We'd like to big bigger plants because this resource will sustain bigger plants."
Construction to build a second plant will begin later this summer, in hopes it will supply much needed power to San Diego homes.
The total price tag for the plant is $400 million. It is expected to provide geothermal energy for the next 30 years.
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