“It’s incredibly hot right underneath our feet,” said Paul Thomsen, board president of the Geothermal Energy Association and director of Ormat Technologies, Inc., which operates the Steamboat plant.
But you wouldn’t know it just by looking around. After all, the plant is about as inconspicuous as they come, producing zero emissions and little noise.
About 100 megawatts of power are generated at the plant, nearly enough to power the entire residential load of Reno.
And because the region is so heavily invested in geothermal production — the Silver State leads the country with 64 projects in various developmental stages — the Geothermal Energy Association decided to hold its first National Geothermal Summit at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno this week. The conference began Tuesday and concludes today.
“The I-80 corridor is excellent for geothermal development,” said Karl Gawell, GEA executive director. “Reno is sort of a hub for geothermal in the United States.”
Gawell added that Reno’s central location and access to markets in California and across the West Coast made it an easy choice to host the national conference.
The summit will bring together industry and government leaders from the state and national levels to explore opportunities for growth and challenges to success.
Topics for discussion include building new transmission projects, new renewable energy developments in California and moving geothermal production onto public lands.
The summit also will examine new advancements in geothermal production, such as the binary system the Steamboat plant uses to extract water to produce energy and then pump it back into the ground.
“This really unleashes Nevada’s potential,” Thomsen said of the technology.
Industry representatives also intend for the summit to provide a platform by which to engage elected officials and encourage government policies that can drive the renewable energy market.
For example, geothermal producers benefit from a tax credit that is set to expire in 2013 if Congress does not take action to renew it.
Gawell said the economy, environment and even national security depends on increasing renewable energy development.
For example, the 64 projects ongoing in Nevada produce about 16,000 jobs, Thomsen said.
“That’s why we have to not be short-sighted,” Gawell said as a sort of call for both public and private investment in geothermal power.
The National Geothermal Summit continues today.
The public can buy access to the exhibit floor for $50, and students can attend for free with a valid student ID. For details on attendee registration, the summit agenda and other information, visit www.geoenergy.org/nationalgeothermalsummit/main.aspx.