Geothermal energy production gets a boost in Nevada

Jim Faulds at the Fly Ranch geyser

An ambitious University of Nevada, Reno project to understand and characterize geothermal potential at nearly 500 sites throughout the Great Basin is yielding a bounty of information for the geothermal industry to use in developing resources in Nevada, according to a report to the U.S. Department of Energy…

The research aims to provide a catalogue of favorable structural elements, such as the pattern of faulting and models for geothermal systems and site-specific targeting using innovative techniques for fault analysis.  The project will enhance exploration methodologies and reduce the risk of drilling nonproductive wells.

Jim Faulds, principal investigator for the project, geologist and research professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, has a team of six researchers and several graduate students working with him on various aspects of the project.

“Of the 463 geothermal sites to study, we’ve studied and characterized more than 250 in the past year, either using existing records or on-site analyses,” Faulds said. “We’ll continue to study more of the sites so we can develop better methods and tools for geothermal exploration. Most, about two-thirds, of the geothermal resources in the Great Basin are blind – that is, there are no surface expressions, such as hot springs, to indicate what’s perhaps 1,500 feet below the surface…”

The geothermal industry doesn’t have the same depth of knowledge for geothermal exploration as the mineral and oil industries,” he said. “Mineral and oil companies conducted extensive research years ago that helps them to characterize favorable settings and determine where to drill. With geothermal, it’s studies like this that will enhance understanding of what controls hot fluids in the earth’s crust and thus provide an exploration basis for industry to use in discovering and developing resources.”

Faulds and his team have defined a spectrum of favorable structural settings for geothermal systems in the Great Basin and completed a preliminary catalogue that interprets the structural setting of most its geothermal systems…

Bravo. An often overlooked alternative energy source in the United States. Some nations – like Iceland – rely almost completely on geothermal sources for residential and commercial energy requirements. Many other around the world consider this an automatic portion of the energy mix.

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