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Nevada to up geothermal production by 25 percent

DOE guarantees $350 million loan to Ormat Technologies for three more power plants in the state.

Ormat's 89-megawatt geothermal "Steamboat Complex" in western Nevada. Ormat Technologies

Nevada, already the second largest producer of geothermal-generated electricity in the U.S., is set to increase its power production by 25 percent.

The state is getting three new geothermal plants thanks to a $350 million 20-year loan guarantee from the Department of Energy to geothermal company Ormat Technologies.

The Ormat Geothermal Project will consist of three separate geothermal power-generation facilities--one each in Jersey Valley in Pershing County, Tuscarora in Lander County, and McGinness Hills in Elko County.

All three installations when fully operational will produce enough electricity to power about 88,000 homes annually, according to Ormat Technologies, the company installing and operating the systems.

Ormat Technologies is known for being a turnkey geothermal company in that the company designs, manufactures, and builds geothermal plants, as well as owning, operating, and maintaining them. The company's success has caught the eye of Google, which was rumored to be in talks as a potential investor in Ormat in 2008.

Principal construction at the Jersey Valley power plant in Pershing County has already been completed, with 15 megawatts of geothermal capacity already going operational in 2010, according to a report from the Geothermal Energy Association.

The Tuscarora and McGinness Hills plants are expected to break ground in early 2012, according to Ormat.

The electricity generated by each of the plants will be sold under three individual 20-year power purchase agreements with the Nevada Power Company, a subsidiary of NV Energy.

The installation will increase geothermal power production in the state by about 25 percent, according to the Department of Energy.

Ormat already owns and operates an 89-megawatt, a 22-megawatt, and a 1.1-megawatt geothermal plant in western Nevada, and has built three additional geothermal facilities in the state that are owned by others.

In addition to the renewable energy it generates, the project will also bring 64 permanent jobs to the state, and 332 temporary construction jobs. Ormat, which has headquarters in Reno, Nevada, already employs 1,090 people worldwide, 472 of them located in the U.S., according to company statistics.

Nevada is a leader in U.S. geothermal with 442 megawatts of geothermal capacity as of March 2011. But it's still only second to California, which as of the same date boasts a geothermal capacity of 2,566 megawatts, according to the 2011 annual report (PDF) from the Geothermal Energy Association.