Now they can tell you they know all that steam is a friendly byproduct of the all geothermal energy being produced there, enough to power all of Reno’s residences and about 832,200 megawatt hours per year.
“I like that I’m learning about the earth,” said Lucy Burnham, 7. “I didn’t know there were so many layers (in the planet).”
Several classes of second grade students went on a field trip and toured Ormat’s Steamboat facility, one of Nevada’s nine geothermal power plants, on Thursday. They saw the turbines and generators that use the planet’s warm water to produce 100 megawatts of energy that service northern Nevada, or about 75,000 homes.
The trip was spearheaded by second grade teacher Lisa Garcia and the classes were accompanied by other teachers as they heard a presentation about why geothermal is so important to generating power for their own homes. They watched several screens monitoring the facility in the control room of the plant as Suzanne Durr, who oversees recovered energy business development for Ormat, taught them the basics of geothermal.
Ormat taps into heat energy from the earth’s molten interior that rises to the surface as crustal plates move and create reservoirs of hot water or that energy may surface as hot steam. Workers at Ormat or other geothermal plants drill wells into reservoirs to collect that steam and direct it into turbines in power plants and is converted into electrical energy. Cooled geothermal fluid is injected back into the reservoir and recycled in an eco-friendly and sustainable manner.
To help the students understand, Durr used practical visual methods such as rubbing her hands together to help them understand the plate tectonics and the concepts of taking out hot water and returning the cooler water.
According to teacher Julie Rippingham, who has taught for 13 years, the students haven’t quite reached their lessons on energy yet, but with the completion of the weather cycle, they can at least relate the usefulness of steam that exit the generators.
Rippingham said her students watch “Bill Nye the Science Guy” so they can grasp scientific concepts in a fun and educational way.
“It helps them to see another purpose (for the steam),” Rippingham said.
Ormat has been headquartered in Reno since 1984. Ormat was recognized by former Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn in 2005 as Distinguished Business of the Year because it encouraged responsible corporate citizenship and contributed to the Silver State’s economic strength.
Ashton Westenburg, 7, was impressed by the natural process of converting the earth’s water in energy.
“I learned the earth gets really hot,” he said. “And the pipes look really cool.”
According to Paul Thomsen, director of policy and business development for Ormat, said the plant offers public tours quarterly and also conducts private tours as requested to educate guests about the benefits of geothermal. Thomsen said Steamboat is the company’s newest flagship as the facility opened in February 2007.
Teacher Diane Thomas said the trip serves as an excellent introduction into their energy unit and it helps them comprehend complicated issues on a local scale.
Rippingham said she enjoys second grade because of the students.
“They’re inquisitive,” she said. “They always ask questions – they have lots of them. They’re like sponges.”