Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Northern Nevada is a Leader in Geothermal Energy Development, But....

There have been a few articles published recently touting Nevada as a geothermal mecca.  In fact, there are 75 geothermal projects under development in Nevada, which is more than twice the amount of the second leading state, California, according to the Northern Nevada Business Weekly (NNBW).

The Great Basin Center for Geothermal Energy at the University of Nevada, Reno has been a leader in understanding the geology of the region covering most of Nevada and parts of Utah, Oregon and California.  The University of Nevada maintains the National Geothermal Academy, an eight-week summer course attended by students, professors, and professionals around the world, both according to the Reno Gazette Journal.

NV Energy currently has 21 deals in place to purchase power from geothermal plants in the state, with a number of those driven by a state requirement for NV Energy to purchase at least 18% of its power needs from renewable sources, according to NNBW. 

However, geothermal energy comes at a price.  Developing geothermal power is a high-risk, high-cost business. Developers spend millions of dollars drilling wells in the hope of finding underground reservoirs of hot water that can be tapped to create steam to drive electricity-generating turbines.

In that sense, the geothermal industry is very much like the oil and gas industries. However, geothermal energy can't be shipped around the world in the way that oil and gas can.  Geothermal energy must be pushed to an electrical grid through agreements to sell the power to a utility and continue development.  Also, there is no payoff in hitting dry geothermal wells, whereas a single "live" oil well can pay off a number of "misses" based on the petroleum prices it can bring.

So, while we have tremendous geological resources here in Nevada, we need investment and legislative commitment to continue our state's growth in this dependable, sustainable source of power.

You can read further, in-depth, pieces by going to the Reno Gazette Journal or the Northern Nevada Business Weekly.

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