Enel to Start Up Two Geothermal Plants in Nevada

Italy’s Enel is boosting its power in the U.S. geothermal market, announcing today that it will flip the switch on two of its geothermal plants in Nevada, with a total capacity of 65 megawatts, in the first quarter of next year. The Stillwater and Salt Wells plants are expected to generate enough energy to power 40,000 homes in the region.

Enel said it has more than 150 MW of geothermal power under development in the U.S.; in addition to the two plants in Nevada, it also has a plant in California and one in Utah. Enel also has 231 MW of wind and 21 MW of biomass in operation in the U.S.

Enel acquired the geothermal plants in March 2007 with its acquisition of AMP Resources, for which it paid $90 million, plus certain milestone payments. The Stillwater site is actually an expansion of an existing plant, which is currently generating 7 MW of power. The expansion will be part of the 65 MW to be generated next year, but the company did not disclose what the individual capacity of Stillwater or Salt Wells will be.

Enel operates 31 geothermal plants in Tuscany generating about 700 MW of electricity, including the first geothermal power generator demonstrated in Larderello, in Tuscany, in 1904.

Enel said it’s also developing geothermal plants in South America, working with Chile’s Empresa Nacional del PetrĂ³leo to explore areas that the company claims show potential capacity in excess of 100 MW. Enel built its first geothermal plant abroad in El Salvador, with a capacity of 44 MW.

Enel said it’s also looking into the next generation of geothermal technologies, and in October the company’s North America unit and its partners received $1 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy for research, development and demonstration of enhanced geothermal systems. Under that grant, Enel North America will work with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New England Research to apply techniques for reservoir and fracture characterization at Enel’s geothermal site in Utah.