EWEB adds geothermal to its power stores.
The Eugene Water & Electric Board is adding geothermal power to its expanding mix of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.
The utility's elected board Tuesday authorized EWEB to sign a contract to buy up to 15 megawatts of electricity from U.S. Geothermal Inc.'s Raft River Project in southeastern Idaho. The power will be available starting in 2009, when U.S. Geothermal completes the second phase of the power plant 200 miles southeast of Boise.
EWEB already owns part of a wind farm in Wyoming, and has signed contracts to buy electricity from the Stateline wind farm near Walla Walla, Wash., from the Klondike wind project in Central Oregon, and from local EWEB customers who have installed solar power systems.
The geothermal power purchase nearly doubles the amount of wind, solar and other nonhydro renewable energy EWEB currently generates or has contracted to purchase to more than 10 percent of Eugene's average daily electricity demand. About 80 percent of EWEB's electricity comes from hydropower.
Three years ago, the EWEB commissioners adopted an energy resource policy that calls for meeting the growth in Eugene's energy needs by continued investments in conservation and renewable energy. For years, EWEB has devoted 5 percent of revenues into conservation.
Geothermal is highly desirable because it is a steady, predictable source of electricity, said Jim Maloney, EWEB senior energy resource planner. Wind energy isn't as reliable because it is subject to changing weather conditions and wind speeds, Maloney said.
A major factor in EWEB's decision to buy the geothermal power was the Bonneville Power Administration's willingness to sign a pact agreeing to take the output from the geothermal power to serve its customers in Idaho, then provide EWEB with an equal amount of electricity from the federal agency's power grid at a point closer to Eugene.
As part of the Raft River purchase, EWEB will obtain "renewable energy credits" that can be sold separately to other utilities, used as part of its own Greenpower program, or saved and used to comply with Oregon's new Renewable Portfolio Standards.
- Jeff Wright