Economic impacts of the Nevada geothermal industry : 1989

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University of Nevada, Reno
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This study was performed under a grant (Grant #9-1-337-5152-002) from the UNR Foundation with funds provided by the Nevada Mining Association. Published for the Nevada Department of Minerals. In the Western United States production of electricity from geothermal energy is predicted to be one of the fastest growing sectors of the electric power industry for the next ten years. In Nevada, capacity to produce electricity from geothermal energy has grown from less than one megawatt (MW) in 1984 to 120 MW in 1988. In large part, the emergence of the geothermal power industry has been in response to fundamental changes taking place in the economic and regulatory environment within which the electric power industry operates. The purpose of this study is to identify and assess the impacts to the Nevada economy of the development of this indigenous, renewable resource as a source of electricity and the potential for future development of geothermal resources. Geothermal energy is, simply, the natural heat of the earth. It exists in four forms, depending on the geological characteristics present where the resource is found: 1) hot-dry rock; 2) geopressure; 3) dry steam, a rare form of geothermal energy which is, nevertheless, the most easily developed form of geothermal energy and currently provides about 40% of the 5,000 MW of electricity being generated worldwide from geothermal energy; and 4) hot-water convection, the type found in Nevada. Hot-water convection is, essentially, rainwater which has percolated through the ground until reaching a geothermal heat source; coming into contact with the heat source, the water then heats under pressure. Temperatures can exceed 600 degrees Fahrenheit but generally are less than that. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that Nevada's geothermal resources, located primarily in the rural areas of northern Nevada and in Washoe County, may be capable of generating over 2,000 MW of electricity, enough power to supply the needs of about two million residential customers. Geothermal energy has been used to produce electricity in Nevada since 1984, when Tad's Enterprises began operation of its 600-kW plant in Wabuska, Lyon County; since then, an additional seven power plants have come on-line ranging in size from Tad's --which is now 1.2 MW -- to Oxbow's 60 MW power plant in Churchill County, for a total gross generating capacity of 120 MW, enough electricity to supply the needs of about 120,000 households, more than 10% of Nevada's current population of 1.1 million. In addition, a 14 MW power plant will begin operation in Stillwater, Churchill County, in 1989. Of the 120 MW online, 74.6 MW are located in Churchill County, 27.8 MW are located in Washoe County, 1.2 MW are being produced within Lyon County, and the Beowawe plant in Lander County has a gross capacity of 16 MW.
geothermal development, Nevada, Geothermal resources--Economic aspects--Nevada
University of Reno, Nevada. 1989. Economic Impacts of the Nevada Geothermal Industry - 1989. Reno, Nevada: University of Reno, Nevada.
35 pages
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