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Lake Amatitlan Geothermal First to Receive UN CDM Emission Reduction Credits

The physical beauty of Guatemala’s Lake Amatitlan is known to many, and growing, numbers of people. One of many such mountain valley lakes, Lake Amatitlan is situated a relatively short distance from burgeoning Guatemala City. Hence, it’s suffered more than more remote, hard to get to lakes from human generated land degradation, pollution and waste. The same volcanic forces that led to the creation of the the lake and its surrounding, mineral and nutrient rich soils are also pointing the way towards a more sustainable and healthy future, however.

Japanese and the Inter-American Development Bank were among the first international development organizations to undertake geologic surveying and mapping of the Amatitlan regions’s potential geothermal resources, with the latter eventually putting together a request for proposals and financing to develop them.

Clean, Renewable Power

Enter Nevada-based Ormat Technologies which was awarded the contract to build and operate a 20-plus megawatt geothermal power plant that taps into Amatitlan’s underlying geothermal hot zone.

Commissioned in 2004, the plant, initially expected to produce clean, renewable power for 20 years, results in some 83,000 less metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions that would have otherwise fouled the area’s air and waters if fossil fuel power had been used. It may eventually be scaled up to as much as 50 MW, electricity that’s being sold to the Institutio Nacional de Electrificatio, the Guatemalan electric utility, as per the terms of a long term power purchase agreement.

A pioneer in the development and use of emerging new geothermal engineering and technology, Ormat on December 23, announced that the executive board of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on Dec. 12 approved and officially registered the Amatitlan Geothermal Project under the Clean Development Mechanism.

It’s the first project in Guatemala, as well as for Ormat, to obtain CDM approval, which means the project qualifies for CDM certified emission reduction credits. These–one for each metric ton of CO2 avoided– have in turn been sold under a long-term contract to a European buyer, according to the company’s media release. They are also eligible for trading in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme.

Ormat also built, and jointly owns and operates the 24 MW binary cycle Zunil I Binary Geothermal power plant in Guatemala, which uses brine and water as heat sinks in a two-phase process. Zunil I has been in operation since 1999.

“This registration is a major encouragement for Ormat to continue developing additional geothermal CDM eligible projects worldwide. Even looking beyond the benefit it provides for Ormat, it is an arrangement with far-reaching advantages that will allow for developing host countries to gain access to cost effective, clean and reliable base-load power, that will help reduce their dependency on imported fuels and on rainfall required to sustain their Hydro reservoirs,” Ormat chairman Lucien Bronicki said of the Amatitlan project qualifying for CDM accreditation.

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