Magma

The new, green land rush

February 18, 2010: 7:21 AM ET

Raser Technologies converts low-temperature water into power. Can this clean energy pioneer strike it rich?

By Carolyn Whelan, contributor

Off a lonely dirt road 30 miles west of Beaver, Utah, (pop: 6,162) on a brisk spring morning last year, wide grins crossed the faces of a handful of men in hardhats. They'd just hit pay dirt, only these modern day miners weren't prospecting for gold or oil. Their spoils? Tepid water.

An aerial shot of the Beaver Thermo site. Photo: Raser

The hamlet of Thermo is home to one of the nation's newest geothermal plants, operated by Provo-based Raser Technologies. (RZ)

The water collected in Thermo is piped from wells to mini-power plants where it is essentially converted into energy and sent over transmission lines to California.

For a century, geothermal plants have supplied heat and power to countries like Iceland, which are abundant with hot and shallow water.  And developers have harnessed energy from lower-temperature (165 degrees and up) waters through such so-called binary cycle power plants for decades. Essentially transferring hot water to another fluid that boils at even lower temperatures through a heat exchanger, steam from the lower-boiling-point fluid in a binary system turns a turbine to generate electricity.

What sets Raser apart from its rivals? More

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