The cooperation of two nations, one western state and a small county all dedicated to developing and nurturing alternative energy focused on the first triple renewable hybrid plant in the world located 12 miles east of Fallon and ringed by pastoral land.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Tuesday joined Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, Enel’s CEO Francesco Starace, Enel Green Power CEO and Francesco Venturini to laud the cooperation between the two countries as dignitaries inaugurated the Stillwater Hybrid Power Plant that combines the generating capacity of medium enthalpy, binary cycle geothermal power with solar photovoltaic and solar thermal.
Renzi, who flew into Naval Air Station Fallon with his party and was then driven to the Stillwater plant, said he considered renewable energy a great opportunity for Italy, the United States and Nevada. He said the challenge takes the old values of Italy and combines them with new energies.
“Energy is also different for — I believe possible — for our countries to invest in a different way,” he said. “This is a challenge today.”
Renzi then reflected on the friendship between the two countries, especially during World War II, by praising the young American men — many of them soldiers who had given their lives — to liberate Italy during the war.
“And now I think we have a lot of lessons to bring from our past,” he said.
Stillwater represents the best of both countries.
Both the Stillwater and Salt Wells geothermal plants opened in April 2009.At the time the two plants were the largest geothermal plants in the world and had the capacity to generate 65 megawatts a year or power 40,000 homes, said Francesco Starace.
The facilities would produce renewable energy while benefiting the state and local area both economically and environmentally. Three years later in May 2012, Enel Green Power’s officials dedicated the world’s first and only solar-geothermal hybrid project at Stillwater,.
Government and energy leaders, along with representatives from Enel Green Power, assembled at the Stillwater plant where Venturini and Sandoval praised the plant’s completion that combined two readily available energy sources.
The Stillwater solar plant was designed to generate 26 megawatts — enough energy to power at least 16,000 households. Construction crews installed 89,000 solar panels.
Work finished on the third stage in 2015 — a 2-megawatt capacity power project is operating alongside the geothermal plant and the solar photovoltaic facility to give the world the first facility that produces energy from three separate energy sources.
Twenty-two rows of solar concentrating mirrors allow the power of 75 suns on the solar tubes. Each row extends 700 feet with each mirror spanning 20 feet across on 21 acres on land that was once used for agriculture.
According to Enel, the binary cycle extracts the heat from underground rocks to turbines that generate electricity. The underground hot water is pumped from a geothermal well to the ground’s surface through a series of heat exchangers.
Starace said during his comments on Tuesday the three energy sources are a combination of technology working at the same site.
“Stillwater showcases the pioneering technology innovation of Enel Green Power that is making us so successful in working with governments and business partners around the world to tackle environmental issues and climate change through renewable energy,” Starace said.
Stillwater, though, will not be alone because Starace said two hybrid plants are being built in Chile and one will be built near Munich, Germany. Eventually, Salt Wells will be a hybrid plant like Stillwater.
Starace had praise for both local renewable energy plants.
“It is a great result of the people who did this job here and of Enel Power America,” he added.
In his final remarks, Starace referred to Stillwater as a place that is in the heart of the world.
Sandoval thanked Enel for its confidence in Nevada and for its compliments to Churchill County, the second-leading county in the U.S. for producing geothermal energy.
“This Stillwater plant — as you said — is one of a kind plant, and it’s located right here in Churchill County in the great State of Nevada,” Sandoval said.
Furthermore, Sandoval said his administration remains committed to renewable resources and energy.
The second-term governor thanked the prime minister and his wife for visiting Nevada and gave them special mementos of their time spent in Northern Nevada.
Dr. Martin Keller, director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, commended the hybrid project and said the collaboration effort has occurred from many different entities.
Keller said Enel’s project underscores his agency’s commitment to bring their expertise to the United States.
Nevada Sen. Dean Heller said the partnership between Italy and the United States has been good for both countries.
Heller said not only is Nevada a leader in the mining of silver but also is the leading state for green energy.
“Our partnership is developing a 21st century supply for generations to come,” Heller added.
Congressman Mark Amodei from Congressional District 2 echoed Heller’s remarks and thanked Enel for being a key partner with Nevada in developing renewable energy.
Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford also presented a key to the city to Renzi before dignitaries and invited guests toured the hybrid power plant.