b'P ROVING THE P RINCIPLERiver, rising in the Raft River system work economically. The water The program quickly attracted workersMountains that stride the Idaho/Utah was 50F cooler than what then was from various disciplines. Scientists con-border. Beneath the valley surface, geo- understood to be economic. As a non- verged in the Raft River Valley like alogical features such as faults intersect- nuclear project and one that would surgical team over a critical patient.ing each other at depths of several take place off-Site, the project was a Chemists analyzed the water.thousand feet provide heat and path- significant departure from the NRT S Radiologists determined its radioactiveways to subterranean water reservoirs. t r a d iti o n . 6 qualities. Geophysicists tried to under-Conditions such as these are common stand the fractured rock below the sur-elsewhere in Idaho and other western Support rolled in from the usual net- face. Seismic experts set up earthquakestates. Kunze recalled the trip. work, aided by an apparent energy cri- recorders. Hydrologists monitored thesis. In the fall of 1973, the petroleum effect of hot water withdrawals on theBob and I went to visit Ed Schlender. I exporting countries of the Middle East cool groundwater system. Biologistsfelt a little uneasy going down there embargoed the shipment of crude oil to identified the plant and animal specieswith the message, Hello, were from the United States. The energy shortages in the area, making a baseline for futurethe government; were here to help that followed were the worst the coun- comparisons. The old, old question ofyou. But the manager took to us, and try had experienced since World War II the right valve for a new job requiredwe took to him. We developed a friendlyand lent an air of urgency to the quest engineers to invent a method to shut offrelationship and started to put togetherfor alternative energy supplies. the flow of boiling water originating ata project. We worked with the Idaho Congress was quite willing to finance a thousand feet below the earths sur-Department of Water Resources, the research that might produce greater face. Metallurgists put samples of car-public power agencies, and the BPA. national energy independence. bon steel and other metals into a loopThe Raft River people gave us a lot of Governor Cecil Andrus eagerly promot- of hot water to figure out corrosionsupport, moral and otherwise. It was aned the project. Idaho senator Frank rates. Computer programmers simulat-opportunity to step outside the Site Church was at the peak of his political ed the entire pilot plant system to aidboundaries and attempt to develop a power. He was chair of the Interior with predictions. Even the technologyresource that would benefit Idaho. Committees Subcommittee on Water of the fluidized bed moved to Raft5and Power and, along with Idaho River, as chemical engineers tried toA research proposal took shape. Kunze Senator James McClure, in a good posi- keep the hot water from depositingworked with the Raft River neighbors tion to help the project. 7 chemical crud in heat exchanger tubes. 9and collaborated with the IDWR. Hehired Clay Nichols, a geologic engi- Church, whose mother lived in a Boise The team set up side experiments.neer with a specialty in geothermal neighborhood heated by geothermal Could better drill bits do the job? Theyg e o l o g y, who had done his doctoral water, had said, Oh, we cant let this tried new ideas. What kind of pipedissertation at the University of money go to Los Alamos! Idaho mus- insulation would best prevent heat loss?Oklahoma on geothermal systems and cled out other contenders, including They buried some pipe and comparedwas then teaching at Boise State other national AEC facilities, for some the results with spray-on insulation. Ifr iU ni ve st y. They went to Wa shi n g ton, of the millions available for geothermal geothermal water were used for irriga-D.C., in August 1973, seeking federal funding. The project began in 1974 tion, would salts build up in the soilgrant support. The objective was to with a plan to build, operate, and test a over time? Someone staked out plotsdrill wells deep into the fractured rock, five-megawatt pilot plant. The geother- for trees, wheat, oats, potatoes, andbring up water at a temperature of mal water would exchange its heat to beets. How about warm water being300F, install turbine/generator equip- isobutane, which would drive the tur- used for fish culture? Up went race- ment using a working fluid other than bine. If successful, the project might ways and a fish pond for shrimp, perch,w a t e r, and generate electricity. Thhave broader application elsewhere in catfish, and tilapia. What went oneengineering challenge was to make the the West. 8 inside a geothermal well? Special elec-214'