THE HEAT IS ON: 1500 will tour power plant

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A $1.2 BILLION geothermal power plant at Koroit will be feeding green electricity into the grid and work will have started on several others across the south-west within six years

This is the vision from the company planning the region’s first geothermal power plant, which will greet a 1500-strong delegation of the world’s top geothermal experts when they tour the area in 2015.

The image of the region’s steam-driven future emerged yesterday when the State Government announced it had won the rights to host the World Geothermal Congress in Melbourne.

The event, expected to attract delegates from 65 countries, will showcase geothermal exploration and infrastructure across the state, with the south-west tipped to be a major focus.

Mark Elliott, managing director of Queensland-based Hot Rock Limited, welcomed news of the congress coup.

“We would be hoping by then to have about 200 megawatts (in production),” he said.

“By that time we would certainly have carried out exploration of some of the other permits in that area and have other projects well advanced and coming into production as well.”

By 2020, the company hopes to have doubled its geothermal energy production to 400 megawatts across the south-west, which translates to an investment of about $2.4 billion, Dr Elliott said.

Hot Rock has previously forecast that its permit area could produce 1100 megawatts every year for 30 years.

Test drilling is planned for the Koroit area in February or March.

Data taken from petroleum wells in the area give an indication of subterranean water reaching temperatures of 185 degrees at 4000 metres underground.

Dr Elliott said the company would spend $12 million drilling its first commercial well and its prototype 10-megawatt power plant would cost $70 million to build.

Geothermal power costs about $6 million a megawatt to drill the wells and build the plant but, unlike gas and coal-fired power plants, there were then no further fuel costs, he said.

“We have to pay for all our fuel for 30 years’ operation before we start, so that’s why the number seems so large,” he said.

Energy and Resources Minister Peter Batchelor said securing the congress was a great opportunity to showcase the state’s commitment to renewable energy.

The congress was secured with the help of the Australian Geothermal Energy Group and the Australian Geothermal Energy Association and is held every five years.

Mr Batchelor said the congress was expected to provide a $9 million injection to the Victorian economy.

“This conference is the perfect platform to showcase our existing work around geothermal energy and our resource prospects, while highlighting to industry delegates why Victoria is a great place to live and work.”

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