Geothermal Resource Potential Assessment, White Pine County

Williams_Hot_Spring_Faulds_resized_CMYKTitle: Geothermal Resource Potential Assessment, White Pine County, Nevada
Author: Nicholas H. Hinz, Mark F. Coolbaugh, and James E. Faulds
Year: 2015
Series: NBMG Report 55
Format: 21 pages, color

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Geothermal resources can potentially contribute toward the renewable energy portfolio of White Pine County (WPC) in two ways: first through the direct conversion of heat energy into electricity, and the second by way of direct-use applications in which thermal energy is used as a source of heat for buildings, greenhouses, and related structures. Several known geothermal areas within WPC lie proximal to the Southwest Intertie power line currently under construction.

A potential source of electricity could come from conventional geothermal systems associated with young faults and regions of active crustal deformation. These systems have a total installed capacity in the Great Basin region of nearly 1,000 MWe. White Pine County hosts several geothermal systems of this type, but none are currently producing electricity. White Pine County has relatively low rates of crustal deformation relative to western Nevada or the Wasatch region of Utah (e.g., faulting accommodating crustal extension). However, based on a review of the geology in the region, we conclude that sustained and reasonable exploration efforts could result in the discovery and development of one or more electricity-grade geothermal systems, with potential generation capacity at each system in the range of 1–20 MWe.

In addition, a new and unproven type of potential geothermal resource termed “deep stratigraphic reservoirs” or “hot sedimentary aquifers” has recently been proposed in the western United States. White Pine County, and in particular, the northern Steptoe Valley, has some of the most promising potential for electricity generation from this type of reservoir in the United States. Preliminary calculations suggest that as much as 500 MWe of baseload electricity in the northern Steptoe Valley could be produced from this type of reservoir using wells reaching depths of 2 to 4 km. The economic feasibility remains unproven, but initial estimates are encouraging.

Based on observed surface temperatures and flow rates of springs, several geothermal systems in WPC also have the potential for direct use, including the heating of buildings and greenhouses. Such uses could reduce the consumption of electricity generated from fossil fuels and could lead to economic expansion by extending the growing season for certain agricultural products and reducing utility costs.

Funding for this work was provided by a grant from the Department of Energy.

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