Nevada could lead the nation in geothermal energy |

Nevada could lead the nation in geothermal energy

RENO — Nevada is uniquely positioned to benefit from a demand for renewable energy production, according to speakers at a convention in Reno this week.

“There’s no better time than now to be in the industry your in,” said Paul Dunlevy, from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, one of several speakers Monday during the opening session of the Geothermal Resources Council’s 30th annual conference on geothermal energy.

Nearly 400 people from around the world are attending the three-day convention at the Reno Hilton.

According to Dunlevy, the BLM is stepping up its focus on geothermal energy production with a five-year research project that will first concentrate on Nevada.

“Surely what we’re discussing is incredibly important, not just to our small community and state but to the nation and the world,” said Reno Mayor Jeff Griffin. “Geothermal is an important part of the energy mix in Nevada.”

Quoting Sen. Harry Reid, he said, “Nevada is the Saudi Arabia of geothermal energy.”

Despite its abundance, geothermal energy production has roadblocks to overcome. Chief among them is resistance to change, according to energy attorney Jon Wellinghoff.

“Utilities do what they are used to doing,” he said. “We do need to put in place public policies that will redirect the industry.”

Nevada is one of the states that already has done so with a Renewable (energy) Portfolio Standard, requiring utilities to acquire a certain percentage of their power from renewable sources.

In 10 years, Wellinghoff said, Nevada is expected to be third in renewable energy production behind California and Texas.

A bill passed by the Nevada Legislature last session requires electric utilities to obtain 5 percent of the power they sell in Nevada from renewable power sources starting next year. The use of so-called “green” resources — geothermal, wind and solar power — must increase to 15 percent by 2013.

“The Nevada Renewable Portfolio has the potential to generate over $3 billion of economic investment in Nevada, mostly in the rural counties, over the next 10 years,” Jon Wellinghoff said Monday at the Geothermal Resources Council’s annual gathering. Wellinghoff, who served as Nevada’s first consumer advocate, is now a lobbyist for green power.

Wellinghoff said that in addition to meeting its own needs by using the state’s vast geothermal resources, a bill just signed into law by California Gov. Gray Davis requiring that state to produce one-fifth of its energy from renewable resources by 2017 presents an additional market.

“The Nevada standard itself would require about 1,000 megawatts of energy over 20 years. The California standard could be five to six times that,” he said. “Surrounding states have an opportunity to sell renewable energy to California.”

Wellinghoff said green power has the potential to join tourism and mining as primary sources of income for Nevada without their cyclical swings.

“Renewables could be that third leg of the economic stool for Nevada,” he said.

— The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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