Company looking to harness power of Salt Wells | NevadaAppeal.com
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Company looking to harness power of Salt Wells

CORY MCCONNELL

FALLON – Halfway between Fallon and Sand Mountain, a newly formed geothermal company is looking to capitalize on hot water discovered by a Texas oil company two decades ago.

If all permits and approvals are granted as scheduled, Nevada Geothermal Specialists co-founder Bill Price said a 10-megawatt power plant could be online and harnessing the power of Salt Wells’ two steamy aquifers by late 2005.

The company bid more than three times as much as its closest competitor for the 2,500-acre parcel of federal land in an auction last summer.

From 1981 to 1986, Texas oil company Anadarko Petroleum Corp. drilled 16 wells at Salt Wells and planned to branch into the geothermal power market with the hot water it had found. None of the company’s plans came to fruition.

“They spent a fair amount of time and money out there, but because of the marketing situation back then Anadarko couldn’t get any sales contracts,” said the BLM’s national geothermal program coordinator, Richard Hoops.

Because of a lack of local transmission lines and off-the-shelf technology, geothermal power costs more than that generated by fossil-fuel plants.

A state mandate to increase the amount of renewable energy wasn’t conceived until the late 1990s.

Sierra Pacific Power Co. had no incentive to buy the more expensive geothermal-generated electricity and Anadarko eventually bailed out of its Salt Wells investments altogether.