Five geothermal projects advanced February 15 with the California Energy Commission's approval of $3.4 million in state grants through its geothermal resources development account. The projects will help California meet its 20 percent renewables portfolio standard, said Elaine Sison-Lebrilla, CEC geothermal program manager. Two of the projects seek to increase geothermal energy use in the Mammoth Lakes area. Those are one that the commission hopes will lead to construction of a new 50 MW geothermal generation plant and another for heating buildings with geothermal energy in the town of Mammoth Lakes. A grant for $896,000 was approved to help Mammoth Pacific explore sites where a 50 MW geothermal plant can be built in the area, said Sison-Lebrilla. Mammoth Pacific - a partnership between Constellation Energy and Ormat - operates three geothermal generating plants that produce 40 MW of power, which it sells to Southern California Edison. The commission approved $191,000 to help fund development of a comprehensive business plan for a geothermal district heating system in Mammoth. The plan will be developed as part of the town's recently adopted energy-efficiency and renewable energy program, said Rick Phelps, executive director of the High Sierra Energy Foundation. That program stems from a Southern California Edison commitment to spend $300,000 in outreach in the town to promote energy efficiency. The High Sierra Foundation is administering the city's initiative. "The [CEC] grant will help us develop a business model for a geothermal heating district in Mammoth Lakes," he said. "It's never been done before." The effort will be aided by marketing research, law, and financial firms and is based on knowledge that geothermal resources exist in the area. "Despite favorable attributes, no project has succeeded beyond the discussion phase," Sison-Lebrilla told the commission before it approved funding the development of the business plan. The other grants provide: - $880,237 to Bottle Rock Power to use horizontal drilling in a bid to increase output from its 55 MW plant at The Geysers in Lake County, which was shut down in 1991 because of a drop in production. Since then, the U.S. Renewables Group has purchased the facility and plans to reopen it before the year ends. - $1.1 million to the Fort Bidwell Indian Community to conduct exploratory drilling to assess the potential of geothermal resources in Modoc County. - $292,726 to Imageair to monitor and help mitigate surface subsidence resulting from increased geothermal development in the Imperial Valley. In other action, the commission delayed approval of new building standards that would have allowed use of new evaporative cooling condensing units to meet 2005 building energy-efficiency standards. The delay came in response to concerns that the units might increase water use, resulting in a lack of real energy savings after accounting for the energy used to deliver the water. The commission also will delay enforcement of appliance efficiency standards for external power supplies from July 1, 2006, to January 1, 2007, and for digital television adapters from 2007 to 2008. Commissioner Jackalyne Pfannenstiel said that manufacturers need more time to resolve technicalities associated with meeting the standards. Digital television adapters will be needed by households without digital televisions beginning in 2009 when broadcasters begin transmitting digital instead of traditional analog signals, she said.