|By Marketwired .||
|July 14, 2014 08:13 AM EDT||
BOISE, IDAHO -- (Marketwired) -- 07/14/14 -- U.S. Geothermal Inc. (TSX: GTH)(NYSE MKT: HTM), a leading renewable energy company focused on the development, production and sale of electricity from geothermal energy, provides this update on the results of its three operating projects for the first half of 2014, and status of development activities.
Neal Hot Springs, Oregon
All three units continue to operate well, with first and second quarter availabilities of 97.7% and 91.4% respectively. (Second quarter availability was impacted by 453 hours of scheduled maintenance, with availability for the balance of the quarter of at 98.3%) Generation for the first and second quarters of 2014 were 56,047 and 40,634 megawatt-hours respectively, for a total generation for the first half of 2014 of 96,681 megawatt-hours. This compared to 76,151 megawatt-hours for the first half of 2013, reflecting a 27% increase over the prior year period.
Under the terms of our Power Purchase Agreement ("PPA"), generation for January, February, and June were paid at the average 2014 contract price of $102.78 per megawatt-hour, while the months of March, April and May were paid at the seasonally adjusted price of $75.34 per megawatt-hour. Planned annual maintenance outages on all units were successfully performed during April and May to take advantage of this lower price period.
San Emidio, Nevada
The plant operated well, with first and second quarter availabilities of 99.6% and 78.2% respectively. (Second quarter availability was impacted by 439 hours of scheduled maintenance, with availability for the balance of the quarter at 97.9%) Generation for the first and second quarters of 2014 were 21,223 and 15,687 megawatt-hours, for a total generation for the first half of 2014 of 36,910 megawatt-hours. This compared to 37,267 megawatt-hours for the first half of 2013, reflecting a 1% decrease over the prior year period. While the first quarter exceeded the prior year generation by 10%, this was offset by second quarter generation falling short of prior year generation by 13% as a result of an extended outage taken in April.
The extended outage was required to perform a one-time warranty modification to the turbine that added a squeeze film damper, or 5th bearing, to the unit to reduce vibration. Squeeze film dampeners were also previously added successfully to the three units at Neal Hot Springs in 2013.
Under the terms of our PPA, generation during the quarter was paid at the price of $91.18 per megawatt-hour. There is no seasonal adjustment under this power purchase agreement.
Raft River, Idaho
The plant performance was exceptional, with first and second quarter availabilities of 99.5% and 94.0% respectively. (Second quarter availability was impacted by 108 hours of scheduled maintenance, with availability for the balance of the quarter at 99.1%) Generation for the first two quarters of 2014 were 21,614 and 18,067 megawatt-hours, for a total generation for the first half of 2014 of 39,681 megawatt-hours. This compared to 36,923 megawatt-hours for the first half of 2013, reflecting a 7% increase over the prior year period.
Under the terms of our Power Purchase Agreement ("PPA"), generation for January, February, and June were paid at the average 2014 contract price of $60.72 per megawatt-hour, while the months of March, April and May were paid at the seasonally adjusted price of $44.63 per megawatt-hour. In addition to the price paid for energy, Raft River currently receives $4.75 per megawatt-hour under a separate contract for the sale of Renewable Energy Credits. The scheduled annual maintenance outage was performed during April to take advantage of this lower price period.
"Our operations team has done an outstanding job during this first half of the year focusing on maximizing production from all of our facilities. Our units are all performing with exceptionally high availabilities, and with output that is at or above what we had expected. The total generation from all of our units for the first half of 2014 was 173,272 megawatt-hours, compared to 150,341 megawatt-hours for the first half of 2013, reflecting a 15% increase over the prior year period", said Dennis Gilles, Chief Executive Officer of U.S. Geothermal. "As a result of this strong performance, we anticipate that our projected year-end results should be in the higher end of the range of guidance that we previously provided."
The Company expects to release second quarter financial results, along with 2014 and 2015 guidance, on August 14, 2014.
El Ceibillo, Guatemala
On January 9th we began our second phase of drilling which involved drilling a series of nine temperature gradient wells with depths between 656 and 1,312 feet (200-400 meters). These wells allowed us to more accurately map the underlying geothermal resource and assist with identifying future drilling targets. Bottom hole temperatures found in this shallow drilling program range from 176 to 412 degrees F (80 to 211 degrees C) with two of the wells encountering permeability and flowing brine. As a result, we now believe that the underlying resource plume is much more expansive than was previously thought, and to fully access it for maximum production, additional surface leases were required. We have successfully negotiated a new lease, which increases our surface lease position from 17 acres to 97 acres. With this new lease now secure, we have begun preparation of the drill pad for our new well EC-2. Drilling is expected to begin this summer. We have also applied to the Guatemalan Ministry of Energy for an extension to our lease concession, and expect approval shortly.
San Emidio, Nevada
After lengthy delays in the issuance of our drilling permits from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), we received the permits required for drilling three additional wells on April 29th. These wells are required to further define the resource and confirm that it can support the Phase II plant. A drill rig was mobilized to the site on June 26th, and the first well has been completed. Well testing should commence once the temperature has stabilized.
As a result of the delays experienced in permitting these additional wells, we have determined that it is not possible to complete the Phase II project within the development time frame required in the existing 19.9 megawatt NV Energy power purchase agreement ("PPA"). If this additional drilling is successful, a new PPA will be obtained.
The State of Nevada has mandated NV Energy to purchase 300 megawatts of renewable energy over the next three years as part of the legislature's plan to reduce coal fired power generation in the state. It is expected that the first 100 megawatt Request for Proposal ("RFP") will be issued in the fourth quarter of 2014. We anticipate submitting a bid in response to the RFP. We are also pursuing entering into a power purchase agreement with California power off-takers, where power prices are typically higher.
WGP Geysers, California
Transfer of the recently acquired Western GeoPower Geysers assets and associated documentation from Ram Power has been completed. We applied for a 12 month extension for the Sonoma County Conditional Use Permit to construct the 26 megawatt power plant, and it was approved on June 12. This provides the time needed to make a decision on the development plan. An application was also made to the Sonoma County Air Quality Board for a permit to conduct flow tests on the four production wells drilled in 2009. The Air Quality permit was approved on June 19th.
We have begun the process of evaluation and cost estimate updates for both anticipated development scenarios and expect to begin discussions regarding a sales contract for either a power sales agreement or steam sale agreement.
MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS
Our focus on M&A activities remains very active. As noted previously, during the first half of this year we completed the acquisition of the Western GeoPower Geysers project. Additionally during this same period we also completed the acquisition of the lease positions associated with the Vale Oregon development project (separate from our Neal Hot Springs project). We have one acquisition where we have agreed to terms and are finalizing documentation, and if completed we would expect to announce later this summer. We have also completed our initial due diligence and have offers pending on a few other opportunities, and are in active due diligence on several other excellent opportunities as well. We are optimistic that several of these will come to fruition. We also continue to evaluate other strategic growth opportunities.
REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT UPDATE
There are a number of pending bills, both at the federal and state level that could have a favorable impact on future geothermal development. At the federal level, Senate Bill S-2260 would extend the current tax credits available to new geothermal plants for an additional 2 years. Under the proposed bill, plants that begin construction by December 31, 2015 would be eligible for a 30% Investment Tax Credit ("ITC"), or alternatively a 10 year Production Tax Credit ("PTC"). S-2260 has been approved by the Senate, and is now at a conference committee to be merged with a companion House tax extenders bill.
In California, as a result of the recent closure of the 2200 MW San Onofre Nuclear power plant, Senate Bill SB-1139 has been introduced to legislate that 500 MW of the replacement must come from new geothermal development. SB-1139 has passed the State Senate, two Assembly Subcommittees, is now headed to the appropriations committee, and then to the full State Assembly for vote. If approved in the Assembly, it will go to the Governor to be signed into law.
Similarly in Nevada, SB-123 was approved and signed into law, requiring the closure of approx. 1200MW of coal plants, and required that the energy be replaced with at least 600 MW from renewable energy facilities. NV Energy is planning to issue three 100 MW RFP's beginning in late 2014.
"Natural gas prices in the United States are seeing a recovery from their recent lows. These rising gas prices are expected to create additional demand for renewable energy within the western United States, particularly for non-intermittent resources, such as predictable and dependable, base load, geothermal power. With a strong potential for improving regulatory support for geothermal energy, we are very optimistic that we will see an increase in demand, and with the anticipated approval of the Federal incentives, that we will correspondingly be able to offer new geothermal resources at competitive and attractive prices", said Dennis Gilles, Chief Executive Officer of U.S. Geothermal Inc.. "The expansion of our generation pool and development pipeline, should position us well for this anticipated opportunity."
About U.S. Geothermal Inc.:
U.S. Geothermal Inc. is a leading renewable energy company focused on the development, production and sale of electricity from geothermal energy and is operating geothermal power projects Neal Hot Springs, Oregon, San Emidio, Nevada and Raft River, Idaho. The company is currently developing a project at the Geysers, California, a second phase project at San Emidio Nevada, as well as El Ceibillo, an advanced stage, geothermal prospect located within a 24,710 acre (100sq km) energy rights concession area located 8.5 miles (14 km) from Guatemala City, the largest city in Central America.
The information provided in this news release may contain forward-looking statements within the definition of the Safe Harbor provisions of the US Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Readers are cautioned to review the risk factors identified by the company in its filings with US and Canadian securities agencies. All statements, other than statements of historical fact, included herein, without limitation, statements relating to the future operating or financial performance of U.S. Geothermal, are forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements are frequently, but not always, identified by words such as "expects", "anticipates", "believes", "intends", "estimates", "potential", "possible", and similar expressions, or statements that events, conditions, or results "will", "may", "could", or "should" occur or be achieved. These forward-looking statements may include statements regarding perceived merit of properties; interpretation of the results of well tests; project development; resource megawatt capacity; capital expenditures; timelines; strategic plans; or other statements that are not statements of fact. Forward-looking statements involve various risks and uncertainties. There can be no assurance that such statements will prove to be accurate, and actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from U.S. Geothermal's expectations include the uncertainties involving the availability of financing in the debt and capital markets; uncertainties involved in the interpretation of results of well tests; the need for cooperation of government agencies in the development and operation of properties; the need to obtain permits and governmental approvals; risks of construction; unexpected cost increases, which could include significant increases in estimated capital and operating costs; and other risks and uncertainties disclosed in U.S. Geothermal's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2013 filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and Canadian securities regulatory authorities and in other U.S. Geothermal reports and documents filed with applicable securities regulatory authorities from time to time. Forward-looking statements are based on management's expectations, beliefs and opinions on the date the statements are made. U.S. Geothermal Inc. assumes no obligation to update forward-looking statements if management's expectations, beliefs, or opinions, or other factors, should change.
The NYSE MKT and the TSX do not accept responsibility for the adequacy of this release.