(EnergyAsia, July 31, Thursday) — Australian companies Origin Energy and Geodynamics said they are advancing their geothermal energy joint venture in Cooper Basin South Australia state.

Origin Energy said it will invest another A$9.6 million in the renewable energy project, bringing its total commitment to A$150 million. (US$1= A$1.03).

The development of the Cooper Basin geothermal resources will include the following three stages:

1. The announcement of ‘proof of concept’ and the development of a 1MW pilot plant to power the JV operations and the local township of Innamincka. The successful completion of the ‘proof of concept’ stage is expected sometime this month following tests and independent certification by Geothermex Inc.

2. The design and construction of a 50MW demonstration plant powered by geothermal energy, the drilling of  nine wells and the completion of transmission infrastructure for the plant. This is estimated to be completed in late 2011.

3. The replication of the demonstration 50MW power plant to achieve commercial base-load power generation. A further nine plants will be built to produce an overall capacity of 500MW. This is estimated to be completed in late 2015.

Geodynamics said it has drilled three wells — Habanero 1, Habanero 2 and Habanero 3. The first milestone under the farm-in agreement includes the completion of the Habanero 3 well and the open circuit circulation test between Habanero 1 and Habanero 3, which were completed on schedule and within budget.

Australian Geothermal Energy Association chief executive Susan Jeanes said the threats of climate change and energy security are spurring increased investor interest in renewable energy development in the country.

“Geothermal energy has the potential to provide Australia with low-emission base-load electricity for thousands of years. Australian companies such as Origin Energy and Geodynamics are leading the development of these critical geothermal projects, which will play a key role in helping us achieve the emissions cuts envisaged by today’s thought leaders,” Ms Jeanes said.

Origin Energy managing director Grant King said: “This marks a further step on the road to better understanding our Australian geothermal assets. With this milestone achieved we can now move towards actually harnessing the energy contained in the country’s hot-rock resources. We strongly believe in the growth opportunities of our low-carbon technologies in geothermal, solar and gas. Geothermal energy will play an ever more important role in securing the growing global need for clean energy technologies.

“Australia’s natural geothermal resources are among the best in the world and we believe geothermal energy has a key role to play in meeting the country’s emissions reduction targets foreshadowed through an emission trading scheme, as well as the planned renewable energy targets.”

Geodynamics managing director Gerry Grove-White said: “We are delighted with the progress we have made to date on our geothermal assets in the Cooper Basin. Today’s announcement confirms the faith we have in the techniques we are developing to exploit our world-class geothermal resources.

“Geodynamics is in pole position in the race to develop emissions-free renewable energy in Australia. The government’s commitment to an emission trading scheme and a renewable energy target underscores the importance of developing this important renewable energy source.”

In addition to its 30% interest in the Cooper Basin geothermal joint venture, Origin Energy also remains the company’s largest shareholder with approximately 7.5% of the shares on issue.

Geodynamics is the largest ASX-listed company in Australia whose sole focus is on developing hot fractured rock geothermal energy.