Green energy gaining steam in the Silver State

June 26, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

RENO, Nev. (KRNV — As climate change gets a big push from the White House, energy experts are in Reno talking about the geothermal industry.

“Nevada is one of the centers for geothermal,” said Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association. 

Gawell said he hopes to see geothermal supply 10-20 percent of the nation’s power in the next 20 years. Now it’s less than one percent.

“Geothermal is one of the most reliable sources of energy, and the best thing about it is it’s here in the US and the jobs that come with it are here in the US,” Gawell said.

Paul Thomsen, director of policy and business development for Ormat Technologies,  said it’s using Nevada’s resources to its advantage.

“Nevada doesn’t have a lot of fossil fuel resources, so we have to import them,” Thomsen said. “So Nevada’s hard-earned money is often going out of state to purchase those. We do have a lot of geothermal.”

Ormat’s Steamboat complex is the largest producer in the state, generating 100 megawatts of geothermal power.

“That’s enough power to supply the entire residential load of the city of Reno,” Thomsen said.

Meanwhile ElectraTherm CEO John Fox said the plant at Florida Canyon Mine is one of the smallest in existence.

“This typically averages 40-50 kilowatts,” Fox said.

Although 50 kilowatts may not seem like that much, the fact that this plant exists and ElectraTherm is able to produce geothermal energy on such a small scale could mean very big things for the geothermal industry as a whole.

“We’re no longer just utility power,” Gawell said. “This means geothermal can also be small distributed energy and it does open a lot of doors.”

The facility runs on what Fox called “waste heat” – hot water that otherwise would’ve gone unused. ElectraTherm harnesses it.

“Cool that water, take energy out of that water, make electricity, and then their retail cost of electricity goes down,” Fox said.

The project was sponsored by the Department of Energy, and Fox says it’s perfect for mining, oil and other industries that literally blow off the steam.

“That heat that’s usually going up a stack can be converted to clean electricity,” Fox said. “We use zero fuel and we produce zero emissions, and all we do is take hot water and that’s our fuel.”

No matter what the scale, geothermal is heating up in the silver state.

“It’s a very exciting time to be in renewable energy in Nevada,” Thomsen said.

Scientists, policy makers and other industry leaders from across the country will be in Reno talking about the future of geothermal at the GEA summit Wednesday and Thursday.

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