Geothermal makes Reno-Tahoe a hot spot |

Geothermal makes Reno-Tahoe a hot spot

Jason Geddes, Tom Matter

It’s fair to say that our economy is in hot water. But, before you leap to the worst with our area’s record high unemployment and foreclosure rates, consider that Greater Reno-Tahoe boosts abundant natural geothermal energy resources that can help our region emerge from recession to recover.

Geothermal energy is literally the heat beneath our feet and has helped position Nevada as a leader in geothermal power production and development. According to the Geothermal Energy Association, if Nevada were a country, it would be the ninth largest producer of geothermal power in the world today and the growth of the industry in Nevada could be worth up to $22.5 billion over the next 30 years.

Closer to home, Reno has also earned international recognition for being a hub for clean energy. Reno was recently named a 2010 Smarter City for Energy by the National Resources Defense Council and the GEA ranked Reno fourth among world leaders in geothermal municipal development.

So what does this virtual hotbed of geothermal energy mean for Reno and its economic future? Reno and its economic diversification partners including EDAWN and NV Energy are tapping into this clean energy source to create jobs and investment in our community. The advantages that our region has for the geothermal industry to consider doing business here are plentiful:

A region is known for the companies it keeps and Greater Reno-Tahoe is home to seven of the largest geothermal operators including: Ormat Technologies, Enel North America, Terra-Gen, Magma Energy, Homestretch, Nevada Geothermal and U.S. Geothermal. The region is also home to many emerging developers including: Vulcan Power Company, Oski Energy, Great American Energy and Standard Steam.

Having a growing cluster of top global companies like these help send a credible message to prospective companies considering relocating or expanding that Reno and its outlying communities are serious about clean energy AND geothermal.

Nevada has an aggressive renewable portfolio standard of 25 percent by 2025. This long-term commitment to clean energy is evident with NV Energy signing its first contract for geothermal power in 1983. If measured on a per-person basis, Nevada leads the nation in the use of geothermal energy.

Today, Reno is the only sizeable U.S. city that produces enough geothermal energy to meet its entire residential load. Its permitted geothermal plants within city limits produce 107.5 MW of geothermal energy.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently awarded the University of Nevada, Reno, a $1.2 million grant to develop and operate the National Geothermal Institute, the first-ever geothermal energy training program. The consortium of top geothermal schools will include MIT, Cornell University, and Stanford University creating a centrally located hub for educating and training the next generation of industry workers.

The Great Basin Center for Geothermal Energy, an internationally recognized geothermal center of excellence, is headquartered at UNR.

Nevada offers up to a 55 percent abatement for up to 20 years on real and personal property for qualified energy companies and storage devices.

Nevada has a competitive, pro-business climate, including no corporate, personal income, unitary, franchise, inventory, inheritance, estate or gift taxes.

Reno-Tahoe is home to the Nevada Geothermal Council, a repository of geothermal industry expertise that collaborates with government agencies to further the successful implementation of existing policies. The council advocates for the exchange of ideas between the industry and state agencies.

The City of Reno and EDAWN will be taking these advantages on the road when it attends the Geothermal Resources Council Annual Meeting Oct. 24-27 in Sacramento. The conference is the largest gathering of geothermal companies and executives with more than 1,000 attendees expected. Other regional entities attending are NV Energy and the Nevada Commission on Economic Development, as well as Reno-based geothermal companies.

Reno has hosted the GRC 11 times in its history and the conference will return to Reno in 2012. In support of the Reno City Council’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Initiative, Reno will sponsor and exhibit at the GRC for the second year in a row, demonstrating the city’s and region’s support for the geothermal industry. Collectively, Reno and EDAWN representatives will be meeting face-to-face with company executives to learn more about their businesses and discuss how Reno can provide a competitive location to relocate or expand their operations.

In addition to being on the floor meeting with executives and attending industry workshops, we’re also hosting a dinner for key company prospects to join us and a few of the top geothermal companies doing business in Reno. It’s a peer-to-peer dinner where companies we’re talking to can meet with their industry peers who are already doing business in Reno-Tahoe and discuss their experience.

Given our region’s geothermal assets and overall business advantages, Greater Reno-Tahoe offers a compelling business case for geothermal companies to consider our region for their next location or expansion. Geothermal is a growth industry and Reno has existing and future office sites and capacity to meet the industry’s future needs.

Our goal is to ensure these geothermal companies are aware that Reno-Tahoe is an ideal location for their investment, offering an attractive and competitive business climate combined with a local culture that supports geothermal and other renewable energies. By attracting and expanding geothermal companies and jobs here, we are further growing and diversifying our regional economy which serves in our market recovery.

Jason Geddes is the environmental services administrator for the City of Reno. Tom Matter is the out-of-market business development manager for the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada.