Wednesday, August 16, 2017

USA, California: License Terminated for Black Rock Geothermal Power Plant

Salton Sea geothermal plant canceled by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Energy (The Desert Sun)

It's been 14 years since California officials first approved the Black Rock power plant, which would have tapped a powerful geothermal reservoir along the shore of the Salton Sea and generated enough climate-friendly electricity to power about 200,000 homes.

But the long-planned geothermal plant in Imperial County was never built — and now its developer appears to be pulling the plug.

CalEnergy, which is owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Energy, asked the California Energy Commission earlier this summer to terminate the license for Black Rock. The company had requested and received extensions of the construction start deadline in 2007, 2011 and 2014, but this time decided to move on rather than pay a $27,678 annual compliance fee that would have been due at the end of June.

Dennis Kaspereit spent 10 years as CalEnergy's director of geothermal resources and now works at the Geothermal Resource Group, a Palm Desert-based consultant. He said Black Rock faced the same headwinds as all geothermal projects in the region — the difficulty of securing financing and a power purchase agreement with a utility.

"It all comes down to the return that they need," he said. Kaspereit doesn't think CalEnergy is especially interested in building new geothermal plants at the Salton Sea anymore.

"Berkshire Hathaway is big. They've got a lot of wind, they've got solar, they've got other areas. (Geothermal is) a complicated thing to do," Kaspereit said.

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