Earth’s Heat Gives States Another Option for Clean Energy Goals

  • Nevada exploring geothermal’s potential for electricity, heating
  • Cost, risk impede development

By Brenna Goth, July 15, 2019 06:01AM ET, Bloomberg Law.
Read the full story here: Earth’s Heat Gives States Another Option for Clean Energy Goals.

“Tapping heat beneath the Earth’s surface for electricity and other uses is gaining ground among policy makers, especially out West, as states seek to expand their options for meeting more aggressive renewable energy goals.

Geothermal energy’s promise lies in its ability to constantly produce power with limited environmental impacts, unlike resources such as wind or solar that are weather-dependent and have other challenges.

It also has the potential “to power the global electric grid many times over” with a nearly unlimited supply, Susan G. Hamm, director of the Energy Department’s geothermal technologies office, says in the introduction to its analysis on the subject.

While geothermal energy represents a small fraction of the power used in the U.S., production could increase by more than 26 times over roughly three decades with the right technology and policy changes, the analysis said. But the risk and cost of developing new projects could hamper the industry’s growth.

One major state player, Nevada, wants to tackle those issues as its utilities move toward getting half their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

A new initiative in the state, which is second only to California in U.S. geothermal electricity generation, directs lawmakers to audit geothermal potential and propose changes that could boost the resource.

Environmental considerations for geothermal projects vary by technology and include water use, greenhouse gas emissions higher than for wind or solar, and seismic hazards. Utilities, though, face few choices for energy sources that both meet their climate change goals and can stabilize the grid, said Paul Thomsen, vice president of business development for the Americas at renewable energy company Ormat Technologies.

“This renewable resource really is a problem solver,” said Thomsen, who also chairs the Geothermal Resources Council policy committee.

Nevada Resort Shows Potential

Nevada is taking a broad approach to analyzing its geothermal potential and impediments. Policy proposals will go to the Legislature for approval.

Lawmakers and researchers will weigh how to map geothermal resources, and the necessary technology and financial support to use them. They will consider applications like using geothermal directly to heat public buildings, and figure out how to integrate the power source with the solar, mining, and lithium industries.

Increasing geothermal use is a matter of national security for state Sen. Pat Spearman (D), who sponsored the initiative. Breaking reliance on foreign oil became a priority following her military career, she said.

“I need the experts working on this with me,” Spearman said.

Some state leaders see potential in a Reno resort’s use of geothermal for heating, which can use underground water at lower temperatures than are needed to produce electricity. The 1,621-room Peppermill Resort Spa Casino produces all of its own heat from its onsite geothermal plant.

Geothermal use at the property dates back to the 1970s. A 4,400-foot-deep production well drilled more than a decade ago replaced boilers and now saves the property $2.2 million per year on its natural gas bills, according to Peppermill representatives. Its carbon dioxide emissions also decreased by 12,000 metric tons per year.

“We were on a known aquifer. So we knew the water was down there and we were able to utilize it,” said John Kassai, the resort’s central plant and geothermal engineering manager.

Risk Reduction, Faster Permitting on Table

Market demand for geothermal is increasing with higher state renewable energy requirements, particularly in places awash with solar, said Thomsen, from the Geothermal Resources Council. The Department of Energy is among agencies looking at how to make development cheaper and faster.

Exploring and developing resources deep underground poses unique challenges. Permitting and land access issues can also increase cost and project length.

The geothermal industry doesn’t have the research and development budget to address those issues, Thomsen said. Legislation proposed in Congress seeks to help, as does federally-funded research.

A project out of Nevada aims to reduce the risk of geothermal exploration to make the energy more economical, said James Faulds, director of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology at the University of Nevada, Reno, that is leading the Energy Department-funded research.

Most geothermal resources are “blind”—they don’t have hot springs or other signs at the surface, said Faulds, who is also a professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.

The research looks at multiple characteristics of known geothermal systems, including fault locations, to find patterns that can indicate potential new resources. The goal is to make it quicker and cheaper to find and drill undiscovered systems; Industry would be responsible for actually developing the resource. Recent exploratory drilling at two areas the research identified found new geothermal systems. That result is an “enormous success” and shows promise for reducing risk, according to a statement from the Energy Department’s Geothermal Technologies Office.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Brenna Goth in Phoenix at bgoth@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com;
Susan Bruninga at sbruninga@bloombergenvironment.com;
Anna Yukhananov at ayukhananov@bloombergenvironment.com

Anniversary of M 6.4 Earthquake in Reno (1914)—April 24

A pair of earthquakes strongly shook Reno in 1914 and caused light damage to the city. The first earthquake was about magnitude 6 and occurred on February 18th at 10:17 a.m. PST. Shaking in Reno, Sparks, and Virginia City was so strong that people rushed to the streets fearing buildings were going to collapse (dePolo and Garside, 2006). The earthquake lasted for about 10 seconds and broke windows, cracked walls, and sent some parts of a brick firewall crashing to the ground in Reno (REG 2/18/1914). The shaking cracked plaster and tossed contents on floors. The earthquake also cracked windows and caused bricks to fall as far away as Virginia City (DTE 2/19/1914). A second, larger (-M 6.4) earthquake struck Reno on April 24th at 12:34 a.m. PST. This earthquake was stronger than the February event in nearly every aspect, and again people ran out of buildings in Reno. People were awakened from their sleep as far away as the Sacramento Valley in California from the shaking. In Reno, bricks fell from buildings, plaster was cracked, windows were cracked, and dishes were broken (REG 4/24/1914). Four chimneys were damaged up on University Hill (REG 4/24/1914). In Virginia City, people who were awake dashed to the streets, as pictures were jarred from walls and dishes fell from shelves (DTE 4/24/1914). (from NBMG Special Publication 37, Damaging Earthquakes in Nevada: 1840s to 2008, by Craig dePolo)

Information on earthquake preparedness:
http://www.nbmg.unr.edu/Geohazards/index.html
http://www.seismo.unr.edu/

Search for your address with this interactive map:
https://gisweb.unr.edu/MyHAZARDS/

Anniversaries of two M 6.0 earthquakes in northern Nevada

Last week there were anniversaries of two M 6.0 earthquakes in northern Nevada:
Reno area—February 18, 1914
Wells area—February 21, 2008

Historical Reno Earthquakes (M 6.0 and M 6.4), February 18 and April 24, 1914

“A pair of earthquakes strongly shook Reno in 1914 and caused light damage to the city. The first earthquake was about magnitude 6 and occurred on February 18th at 10:17 a.m. PST. Shaking in Reno, Sparks, and Virginia City was so strong that people rushed to the streets fearing buildings were going to collapse (dePolo and Garside, 2006). The earthquake lasted for about 10 seconds and broke windows, cracked walls, and sent some parts of a brick firewall crashing to the ground in Reno (Reno Evening Gazette, 2/18/1914). The shaking cracked plaster and tossed contents on floors. The earthquake also cracked windows and caused bricks to fall as far away as Virginia City (Daily Territorial Enterprise, 2/19/1914).

A second, larger (~M 6.4) earthquake struck Reno on April 24th at 12:34 a.m. PST. This earthquake was stronger than the February event in nearly every aspect, and again people ran out of buildings in Reno. People were awakened from their sleep as far away as the Sacramento Valley in California from the shaking. In Reno, bricks fell from buildings, plaster was cracked, windows were cracked, and dishes were broken (REG 4/24/1914). Four chimneys were damaged up on University Hill (Reno Evening Gazette, 4/24/1914). In Virginia City, people who were awake dashed to the streets, as pictures were jarred from walls and dishes fell from shelves (Daily Territorial Enterprise, 4/24/1914).”

Excerpt from Damaging Earthquakes in Nevada: 1840s to 2008, by Craig M. dePolo:
http://pubs.nbmg.unr.edu/Damaging-earthquakes-in-NV-p/sp037.htm

2008 Wells Earthquake (M 6.0), February 21, 2008

 You can read about the Wells earthquake in this publication edited by Craig M. dePolo and Daphne D. LaPointe:
The 21 February 2008 Mw 6.0 Wells, Nevada Earthquake: A Compendium of Earthquake-Related Investigations Prepared by the University of Nevada, Reno.

New Geologic Map: Mount Rose Quadrangle with shaded relief

Open-File Report 14-7
Preliminary geologic map of the Mount Rose quadrangle, Washoe County, Nevada

by Nicholas H. Hinz, Alan R. Ramelli, and James E. Faulds, 2014

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A 1:24,000-scale, preliminary geologic map of the Mount Rose 7.5-minute quadrangle in Washoe County, Nevada.  This quadrangle straddles the northern Carson Range directly north of Lake Tahoe and includes much of Incline Village, the Mount Rose Highway, three north Lake Tahoe ski areas, part of the Tahoe Rim Trail, Mount Rose proper, and numerous major tributary drainages to the Truckee River and Lake Tahoe. Mapping of this quadrangle has important implications for understanding earthquake and landslide hazards in the Reno–Carson City–Lake Tahoe region.

The bedrock exposures in the quadrangle consist of Mesozoic crystalline basement and Tertiary volcanic and sedimentary rocks.  The Mesozoic rocks are dominantly granitic with local metamorphic roof pendants.  The Tertiary section includes a complex section of lavas, intrusions, and volcanic sedimentary rocks.  Much of these volcanic and sedimentary rocks were derived from a Miocene ancestral Cascades volcanic center in the northwest quarter of this quadrangle.  Principle surficial deposits include late Pliocene to modern alluvial fan and fluvial deposits, Quaternary glacial deposits, and late Quaternary mass wasting deposits.  Notable deep-seated landslide complexes reside in the Whites Creek, Gray Creek, and First Creek drainages.  The Tertiary section is cut by a system of north-northwest to north-northeast-striking normal and dextral-normal faults with both down-to-west and down-to-east sense of displacement, kinematically linked with a system of northeast to east-northeast-striking sinistral-normal faults.  Detailed mapping of Quaternary fault scarps associated with the Incline Village fault zone benefited greatly from publicly available, high-resolution LiDAR data for the Tahoe basin.

This publication was prepared as part of the STATEMAP component of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Open-File Report 14-7, scale 1:24,000, 39 x 28 inches, color; 4-page text, b/w; folded or rolled, $18.00       

Be sure and check out the new shaded relief format on this map of Mount Rose.

Available free on the Web or purchase here: http://www.nbmg.unr.edu/sales/pbsdtls.php?sku=OF14-%207

Articles on Reno area – in Geosphere

In April 2012, this publication on the Reno area was released:Preliminary revised geologic maps of the Reno urban area, Nevada by Alan R. Ramelli, Christopher D. Henry, and Jerome P. Walker, with contributions by John W. Bell, Patricia H. Cashman,…

In April 2012, this publication on the Reno area was released:
Preliminary revised geologic maps of the Reno urban area, Nevada by Alan R. Ramelli, Christopher D. Henry, and Jerome P. Walker, with contributions by John W. Bell, Patricia H. Cashman, Craig M. dePolo, Larry J. Garside, P. Kyle House, James H. Trexler, and Michael C. Widmer http://www.nbmg.unr.edu/sales/pbsdtls.php?sku=OF11-%207

Authors of this open-file report have just published new articles on the Reno area in Geosphere (June 2012). The abstracts of these articles can be viewed at this Geological Society of America link: http://geosphere.gsapubs.org/content/8/3.toc

Constraints on the history and topography of the northeastern Sierra Nevada from a Neogene sedimentary basin in the Reno-Verdi area, western Nevada, by James Trexler, Patricia Cashman, and Michael Cosca

Distinct mantle sources for Pliocene–Quaternary volcanism beneath the modern Sierra Nevada and adjacent Great Basin, northern California and western Nevada, USA, by Brian Cousens, Christopher D. Henry, and Vishal Gupta

New Reno urban area geologic map

Open-File Report 11-7: Preliminary revised geologic maps of the Reno urban area, Nevada by Alan R. Ramelli, Christopher D. Henry, and Jerome P. Walker, with contributions by John W. Bell, Patricia H. Cashman, Craig M. dePolo, Larry J. Garside, P. …

Open-File Report 11-7: Preliminary revised geologic maps of the Reno urban area, Nevada
by Alan R. Ramelli, Christopher D. Henry, and Jerome P. Walker,
with contributions by John W. Bell, Patricia H. Cashman, Craig M. dePolo, Larry J. Garside, P. Kyle House, James H. Trexler, and Michael C. Widmer
2011

Image001

 

This study developed a comprehensive, unified stratigraphy for the Quaternary, Cenozoic, and Mesozoic rocks of the Reno urban area that can be extended to adjacent areas. The study also completely remapped Quaternary and older faults in the area based on extensive new surface and subsurface data. Six new cross sections are the first to depict the overall structure of the Truckee Meadows basin. The maps are compiled in ArcGIS so that they can be continuously updated as additional data become available.

Open-File Report 11-7 was revised from these published geologic maps from NBMG:
Urban Map 4Gg, Geologic map of the Verdi quadrangle, John W. Bell and Larry J. Garside (1987);
Urban Map 4Ag, Geologic map of the Reno quadrangle, Harold F. Bonham and Edward C. Bingler (1973);
Urban Map 4Hg, Geologic map of the Vista quadrangle, John W. Bell and Harold F. Bonham (1987);
Urban Map 5Ag, Geologic map of the Washoe City quadrangle, R.W. Tabor and S. Ellen (1975);
Urban Map 4Bg, Geologic map of the Mt. Rose NE quadrangle, Harold F. Bonham Jr. and David K. Rogers (1983); and Urban Map 4Fg, Geologic map of the Steamboat quadrangle, Harold F. Bonham Jr. and John W. Bell (1993)

Supersedes Open-File Report 10-11.

Available free on the Web or for purchase–http://www.nbmg.unr.edu/sales/pbsdtls.php?sku=OF11-7

OF11-7, 3 color plates, scale 1:24,000-scale, each plate 80×42 inches, rolled only, $66.00 for the set of 3 plates

You may purchase these individual plates by calling 775-682-8766. They will be available on our shopping cart next week.
OF11-7-1 (plate 1 only, north half) $22.00
OF11-7-2
(plate 2 only, south half) $22.00
OF11-7-3
(plate 3 only, cross sections) $22.00