UPDATE: $2 million awarded for geothermal launch site
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected on Monday a site near Fallon for its Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE), and $2 million in federal funds to launch the ground-breaking research project.
Five sites including Fallon were chosen to divide the launch funding.
According to Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, FORGE will allow scientists and engineers to develop, test, and accelerate breakthroughs in enhanced geothermal technologies and techniques.
“Nevada’s proud history of innovative geothermal development perfectly matches the FORGE concept to enable cutting-edge research, drilling, and technology testing,” Sandoval said. “Being selected as a host state for FORGE confirms Nevada’s status as a leader in geothermal energy.”
Sandoval said FORGE will build on recent successes in structural modeling, drilling, CO2 sequestration and enhanced geothermal systems that have attracted a cluster of geothermal excellence to Nevada and the Nevada System of Higher Education.
One of FORGE’s long-term goals is to enable domestic access to a carbon free energy resource on the order of 100 gigawatts, or enough to power about 100 million homes. An open data policy will make the research project a leading resource for the broader scientific and engineering community studying geothermal energy.
Sandia National Laboratories leads the Nevada team and includes the University of Nevada Reno, Ormat Technologies, Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory and the U.S. Navy.
Rachel Dahl, executive director of the Churchill Economic Development Authority, attended the announcement on Monday in Reno.
“We worked on this effort and had help from the mayor, the city and Sen. (Harry) Reid’s office,” Dahl said.
Additionally, Dahl said Naval Air Station Fallon was supportive in the process.
“The opportunity to have a research facility for geothermal in Churchill County is great,” Dahl added.
Churchill County is the second largest producer of geothermal energy in the United States behind Lake County, Calif., northeast of San Francisco.
Dahl said both the governor’s office and Office of Energy also worked hard to bring the facility to Churchill County.
“Nevada is blessed with tremendous geothermal resources and streamlined permitting processes that speed development,” said Paul Thomsen, director of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy. “The Geothermal Energy Association ranks Nevada No. 1 in the U.S. in installed geothermal per capita, and we are excited to add the ground breaking FORGE project to our rapidly growing portfolio of clean energy production projects.”
Reid said the selection will further establish the state as a leader in renewable energy. Earlier this year, Reid worked with the Navy and several Nevada stakeholders to move the project forward.
Thomsen said Ormat began drilling years ago on land adjacent to Naval Air Station Fallon.
“The site has geothermal wells already drilled, but no geothermal plants are on it.”
Thomsen added the federal government has taken the first step in phasing in a project of this magnitude. Eventually, the project will enter a second and then a third state of construction. According to Thomsen, this will be the best geothermal test site in Nevada and will create economic development for the area. He said three sites will be selected later for phase two and one for the final phase.
Furthermore, Thomsen said Fallon has an extremely good chance of moving forward with the final two phases.
“You’ll see more scientists coming here to Churchill County,” Thomsen added.
During the process of establishing the research site, Thomsen said Reid was instrumental in making the project move forward.
“Sen. Reid did an unbelievable amount of work,” Thomsen said. “He really worked hard to put the Navy at ease and to get the project going.”
“Nevada is the perfect location for the Department of Energy’s new geothermal laboratory. The nation’s lab for advancing geothermal belongs in Nevada,” Reid said. “It is important this research in Enhanced Geothermal Systems — the next generation of geothermal technology – takes place in the Silver State. For decades, Nevada has been the epicenter of geothermal energy in the United States. This lab will continue Nevada’s history of turning our geothermal resources into jobs and economic growth. Nevada can lead the nation and the world in this new technology and help to expand the scale and benefits of geothermal energy all across the country.”