Nevada has more geothermal resources than any other state and currently is second (after California) in the production of geothermal energy. At present, geothermal energy contributes ~8% of Nevada’s electricity generation, with ~720 MWe of installed generation capacity, but all studies indicate vast untapped geothermal potential in the region. One MWe
provides enough electricity for ~700–1,000 homes.

The NBMG geothermal team conducts innovative, applied research in the following areas to support the development of Nevada’s geothermal energy resources:

• We investigate what geological factors control where geothermal resources are located in Nevada (this helps to predict where we might find new resources);

• We develop new approaches for geothermal exploration to facilitate discovery of ‘blind’/hidden geothermal systems; and

• We characterize the subsurface to help industry optimize the development and sustainable management of geothermal reservoirs.

Exploring for geothermal resources in Granite Springs Valley with a
GeoProbe rig (January 2018).

Nevada Play Fairway Project

The primary goal of this project is to develop a methodology that will predict the locations of potential blind hydrothermal geothermal systems in Nevada (i.e. systems with no surface hot springs or steam vents) and distinguish the most promising systems for further exploration and development. Studies suggest that blind systems represent ~75% of the region’s geothermal resources. Funded by the US Department of Energy over three work phases, the project culminated in test drilling to validate the methodology in Gabbs Valley (Mineral County), and Granite Springs Valley (Pershing County), and was successful in identifying two new geothermal systems.

Graduate students visit a geothermal drill rig with GBCGE Director,
Bridget Ayling.

Great Basin Center for
Geothermal Energy (GBCGE)

Located within NBMG, the Great Basin Center for Geothermal Energy (GBCGE), conducts basic and applied research that promotes identification and utilization of geothermal resources through research in geology, geochemistry, geophysics, remote sensing and the synthesis of multidisciplinary information, to create new models of geothermal systems in the Western USA and worldwide. Established in 2002, the GBCGE contributes to the creation of a trained workforce for both industry personnel and students through university courses, professional workshops, and the National Geothermal Academy summer program.

National Geothermal Academy attendees touring Ormat’s Steamboat geothermal power plant (June 2018).

National Geothermal Academy

The National Geothermal Academy (NGA) is a geothermal education and training program that was established in 2011 by the Great Basin Center for Geothermal Energy at UNR to educate and train the next generation of the U.S. geothermal energy workforce. Held every summer at UNR, the NGA includes week-long modules with topics including Resource Exploration, Geology and Geochemistry, Reservoir Engineering, Drilling Engineering, Low-temperature Geothermal Applications, and Permitting and Environmental Regulations.

Hawthorne Deep-Direct-Use Feasibility Study

This project aims to investigate the geothermal resources near the Hawthorne Army Depot and community of Hawthorne, and evaluate the feasibility of using geothermal hot water to heat the base facilities and public buildings in the town. Using geothermal heat directly (instead of converting it to electricity) is much more energy efficient, and Nevada has significant potential for more widespread use of geothermal heat.