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For Immediate Release: December 17, 2003
Contact: Chris Davis -916-654-4989

Energy Commission Approves Largest Geothermal Power Plant In U.S.

Sacramento - The California Energy Commission today voted to license the Salton Sea Unit 6 Geothermal Power Project. If constructed as expected, the facility would use geothermal steam from the Salton Sea Known Geothermal Resource Area to produce 185 megawatts. A megawatt is enough energy to power approximately 1,000 homes. The power plant would be the largest using geothermal steam to generate electricity in the United States.

"Licensing this power plant is an important step toward increasing both the geothermal and renewable power produced in California," said Energy Commission Chairman William Keese. "The 185 megawatt plant increases California's geothermal power production by more than 10 percent and moves us that much closer to the goal for renewable energy of 20 percent by 2010 that was identified in the Energy Commission's Integrated Energy Policy Report."

The Salton Sea Unit 6 Geothermal Power Project, proposed by CE Obsidian Energy, LLC, will use the steam from geothermal brine, run through a three-pressure, high-efficiency condensing-steam turbine, to produce electricity. The Energy Commission staff has estimated that the project will avoid $50 million a year in costs for fuel that would be used by a similarly-sized natural gas-fired facility, at the current price of natural gas. Most of the power will be sold through long term contract to the Imperial Irrigation District.

The project is located at the southern end of the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge, approximately six miles north of Calipatria in Imperial County. The project site will encompass 80 acres of a 160-acre parcel owned by the applicant.

For geothermal projects, the Energy Commission evaluates all aspects of the proposal. Permits for the geothermal production and injection wells will be issued by the Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. Imperial County will issue permits for the well pads and brine pipelines. The Energy Commission's Final Decision will be used by both agencies as the environmental document for their permitting processes.

The California Energy Commission has now licensed 43 power plants since 1999, totaling 17,312 megawatts, including both the Salton Sea Unit 6 Geothermal Project and the 670-megawatt Inland Empire Energy Center, which was also licensed today. Of those approved plants, 24 are now in operation, producing 8,311 megawatts. With the addition of 1,229 megawatts that were permitted locally, outside the Energy Commission process, California has added 9,540 megawatts of new generation since 1999. In addition, nine projects representing 5,159 megawatts are in active review in the Energy Commission's licensing process.

More information on Energy Commission power plant projects is available at:



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