Fallon named finalist for geothermal systems site

An area south of the Naval Air Station Fallon runway near Macari Lane is being considered for a major geothermal project.

An area south of the Naval Air Station Fallon runway near Macari Lane is being considered for a major geothermal project.

Fallon, along with a proposed site in Utah, is one of two locations being considered for an underground laboratory to conduct research on enhanced geothermal systems.

Sandia National Laboratories will work on the Fallon project, which is the Ormat site located south of the Naval Air Station Fallon runway toward Macari Lane. The University of Utah will be working at a site in Milford.

“We’re grateful to see this project continue forward because of the amount of work we invested along with local governments and Sec. Harry Reid’s office,” said Executive Director Rachel Dahl of the Churchill Economic Development Authority.

Dahl said the city of Fallon and especially Mayor Ken Tedford were supportive in the efforts to have Fallon named as a site. The announcement naming the final two sites for consideration is part of President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan. Earlier this month the Department of Energy announced $29 million in funding under the Frontier Observatory of Research in Geothermal Energy Program.

Dahl said Tedford was very instrumental in ensuring the project was going through the right channels and that Fallon would receive strong consideration.

“It’s exciting the huge investment the DOE is undertaking,” Dahl said.

The Energy Department, with the support of the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), awarded funding to these two teams after a competitive first phase of research to evaluate potential EGS underground research sites.

“It is a three-phase project,” Dahl said. “Last year at about this time, we were named a top five finalist, now top two competing against Utah. Now, it will be about another year of research.”

“Enhanced Geothermal Systems can help us tap into a vast energy resource with the potential to generate enough clean energy to power millions of homes,” said Franklin Orr, Under Secretary for Science and Energy. “In supporting this technology, the FORGE program is advancing American leadership in clean energy innovation and could ultimately help us meet our climate and sustainability goals.”

Dahl also said Reid’s office was very helpful during the process. Early in 2015, Dahl said Reid worked with the Navy and several stakeholders to ensure the location of the site did not conflict with Naval Air Station Fallon.

Reid, said Dahl, supported the geothermal energy budget that funds the FORGE project via the appropriations process. With his support, the Obama Administration has been able to significantly expand the geothermal budget.

“Nevada will be the perfect location‎for the Department of Energy’s new Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal (FORGE) laboratory,” Reid said. The nation’s lab for advancing geothermal energy belongs in Nevada and will further establish Nevada as a leader in renewable energy. Enhanced Geothermal Systems are the next frontier in clean energy, and they are an enormous opportunity for the Silver State’s economic growth.

“I thank President Obama and Secretary Moniz for their ongoing commitment to expanding the scale and benefits of geothermal energy across the country.”

Enhanced Geothermal Systems are the means by which resources are accessed from deep beneath the surface of the earth where there are hot rocks ideal for geothermal wells but little naturally occurring liquid to generate steam.

Pumping fluids into the hot rocks creates pathways that carry heat to the earth’s surface through wells where the fluids become steam to drive turbines and generate electricity.

Investing in EGS technologies today could eventually lead to more than 100 gigawatts (GW) of economically viable electric generating capacity in the continental United States, representing an increase of two orders of magnitude over present geothermal capacity, which currently stands at 3.5 GW.


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