Geothermal energy gains esteem in Reno

 By Sharon Fisher

Reno is known as the “Biggest Little City in the World.” That claim might be made for its geothermal energy as well; this “little” city has the biggest geothermal projects…

Unlike some areas that have a single government-run project, Reno has geothermal projects ranging from the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino to its subdivisions, not just in Reno, but all over northern Nevada.
The Peppermill spent more than $9.7 million, drilling down 4400 feet deep—the deepest well in the Reno area—to gain enough geothermally heated water to heat its guest rooms and swimming pools. Since 2007, the resort had used geothermal energy to heat domestic water for its Tuscany Tower, which included water for the 43,000 sq. ft. Spa Toscana and Fitness Center and the two outdoor swimming pools and spas, the company reports. Now the entire resort can heat both space and domestic water using geothermal energy. “Geothermal energy now heats 100 percent of the Resort’s domestic water and mechanical heat throughout the 2.1 million sq. ft. facility, 24/7, effectively replacing the natural gas boilers that currently heat the facility. This renewable energy will help the Peppermill reduce its dependency on fossil fuels and save the company millions of dollars in natural gas use,” according to the company’s website.

Peppermill Resort Spa Casino in Reno, Nevada (FASTILY, Wikimedia)

In fact, in October 2018 the Peppermill will host the Geothermal Resources Council’s annual meeting, which typically attracts more than 1,000 people from around the world.
Ormat Technologies, a geothermal company headquartered in Reno, started doing geothermal development in northern Nevada in the 1980s. It now runs the McGinness Hills Complex a couple of hours east of Reno. Built in two stages, in 2012 and 2015, McGinness creates 86 megawatts of power that feed into the Nevada Energy power grid, supporting 57,000 homes. It is now being expanded by an additional 48 megawatts, which will make it the largest geothermal plant in the state when it is completed in December 2018. That power will feed into the Southern California Public Power Authority. Ormat Technologies has built or acquired plants worldwide, including in the Philippines and Kenya.
Altogether, Nevada Energy lists 19 geothermal projects in the northern Nevada area, ranging from 2 megawatts up to 96 megawatts, providing a total of more than 486 megawatts. Some of them, including the Ormat project, date back to the 1980s.
Reno will probably never be as big as Las Vegas. But its geothermal energy could someday keep Las Vegas’s lights on.

Cover image by BLM Nevada, Flickr

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Sharon Fisher