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By Jeff St. John

Geothermal power company Ormat Technologies Inc. (NYSE: ORA) is seeking up to $1.5 billion to fund its growth plans, amid what one industry analyst called potential setbacks for the company.

The company plans to raise the money by issuing shares or borrowing money, the company said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

That registration will replace an existing filing set to expire in January 2009, so it doesn't necessarily represent new capital-raising goals for one of the world's leading developers of geothermal power resources, said Mark Taylor, lead geothermal analyst with New Energy Finance.

Given some recent troubles, the filing could be seen as a reminder to shareholders that the company's aggressive development goals are still on track, Taylor said.

The recent departure of a senior executive vice president and two lead scientists has raised questions about the company's stability, Taylor said.

Ormat set the fund-raising goal as "a way to tell people, they're still on top, even though they lost some of their key people," Taylor said.

The company operates power plants in the United States, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Kenya, and it owns 410 megawatts of geothermal generating capacity. That's out of a worldwide geothermal generating capacity of about 10 gigawatts as of 2007, according to New Energy Finance.

Worldwide geothermal generation stood at about 8.3 gigawatts in 2000, and New Energy Finance predicts it will grow to 11.4 gigawatts by 2010.

Using the earth's heat to produce power hasn't generated as much attention as other renewable energy technologies like wind and solar, but investments in the field are growing (see SPX Makes $100M Geothermal Deal and AltaRock Breaks New Ground with Geothermal Power).

Ormat, which went public in 2004, has several large projects under development. In June, the company announced a $16 million contract to build a geothermal power plant in Turkey, and in July it secured a $42 million contract to develop a geothermal power plant in New Zealand.

Earlier this month, Ormat announced it had spent $3.3 million for rights to develop geothermal resources on Alaska's Mount Spurr, located 75 miles west of Anchorage.

Ormat reported in August that it earned $12.2 million on revenues of $80.2 million in the second quarter of 2008 and had raised $246 million in capital in the year, which "provides us with ample capital as we continue to advance our growth strategy," said CEO Dita Bronicki in a statement.

Still, the company faces competition from established and up-and-coming geothermal companies alike, Taylor said.

Established competitors include Indonesia's PT Pertamina and the Philippines' PNOC Energy Development Corp., a formerly government-owned  company that was acquired by a subsidiary of the Philippines First Gen Corp. in 2007 for about $1.7 billion, he said.

Source: Ormat Technologies Seeks $1.5B to Fuel Growth