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Newberry Crater could be a geothermal source

Justin KingThe Broadside


Newberry National Monument, 30 minutes south of Bend, boasts many impressive traits, including two state records and an astronaut training site. There is are activities for the weekend warrior, as well as a future source of clean energy and jobs.
In the winter, the 50,000 acre site has over 100 miles of snowmobile trails and over 10 miles of cross-country skiing, plus skiing on snow covered roads. The highest point is Paulina Peak, named after a Paiute Indian chief. The almost 8,000 foot peak has a road that is great for cross-country skiing up and down, and has a few steep north-facing aspects for the ambitious few with avalanche skills.
The two lakes in the 20 square mile caldera are Paulina and East Lake. Each have their own hot springs near the shore. Both lakes offer great flat-water boating—nothing faster than 15mph— and both are filled with big brown trout and landlocked kokanee salmon. Paulina Lake holds the state record for Brown Trout at 28 pounds and 5 ounces.
Newberry caldera presented NASA an opportunity for simulated moon walks and training opportunities because of the otherworldly terrain lacking in Houston, Texas. Astronauts training for the Apollo moon missions made use of lava fields near Lava Butte and elsewhere around Newberry Caldera.
Newberry also offered the ancient indigenous inhabitants, as far back as 10,000 B.C.,opportunities for tool making. The caldera is chock full of a glassy rock called obsidian found in the Big Obsidian Flow. Once worked to a sharpened point by skilled hands, this angular glass-like stone offers a sharp edge equal to surgical scalpels. These lithic arrowheads were perfect for bringing down the huge game that roamed the volcanic landscape.

The monument also boasts the longest lava tube in the state of Oregon. Lava River Cave located northwest of the caldera is nearly a mile long and crosses under Highway 97. The cool tube produced many obsidian flakes, and was a former Native American arrowhead knapping site. Other features of the cave are Echo Hall, that is a 300 square foot smooth-walled chamber, and the Sand Garden, with sculpted sand spires and monuments. Lanterns can be rented for $5.

The most lucrative feature drawing attention to the area, however, isn’t on the surface. The Newberry caldera is also a geothermal site. There is a partnership between Davenport Power of Conneticut and AltaRock Energy of California and the Bureau of Land Management to utilize this potential energy to power homes and businesses with clean, renewable energy comparable in price to power from a coal-fired plant.

“The exploration phase takes years sometimes decades because it is time-consuming, costly (need investors) and you must continually re-assess the scientific data. It is difficult to pinpoint the subsurface resource since you can not see where the resource is at on Newberry Volcano,” according to Gregory McClarren with the Davenport Newberry Project.

However, McClarren also added that “power supplied from geothermal is base-load, meaning it is stable and predictable e.g. 95+ percent of the time unlike wind and solar.”

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