Steamboat Springs Geothermal Field

The Steamboat Springs geothermal resource is located south of Reno, Nevada, just off U.S. Highway 395. Two electric generating facilities utilize geothermal waters believed to be related to a single high temperature fluid that rises from depths beneath the Steamboat Hills and cools along a path to the area of the lower facility, the SB Geo plant. North and northeast-striking faults predominate in the Steamboat Hills area and probably provide the main conduits for fluid flow to the resource areas tapped by the two companies.

SB Geo Inc. operates four generating plants as a combined facility located near the junction of U.S. Highway 395 and State Route 431. The SB Geo wells produce from fractured material along a north-northeast-striking fault zone. Submersible pump technology application studies at the plant are ongoing, and a high-efficiency turbine retrofit was completed in 2001. The U.S. Department of Energy provided initial funds ($200,000) to Steamboat Envirosystems LLC to evaluate enhanced geothermal systems technology at Steamboat, and $270,000 for geothermal resource exploration and definition through the GeoPowering the West program. In 2001, SB Geo drilled a 610-m temperature slim hole on its Meyberg Property, 1.5 km south of the SB Geo plants. A maximum temperature of 162C between 335 and 427 m was measured; temperatures decrease below this interval.

The upper plant, Yankee Caithness, operates about 3 km to the southwest, near the top of the Steamboat Hills. A new well with significant flow was brought into production in July 2000 at a temperature of 248C. Although the flow rate did not diminish, the production temperature had dropped to 219C within one year, and the well currently produces 8 MW of electricity. The U.S. Department of Energy has provided $1.875 million over 3 years for resource exploration and definition as part of the U-boat project (short for Under Steamboat)

In March 2005, Ormat Nevada Inc., a subsidiary of Ormat Technologies Inc., broke ground on the first geothermal electric generating plant to be built at Steamboat since 1991. The Galena Geothermal Project increases Steamboat's installed capacity to 44 MWe. Dan Schochet, Vice President of Ormat, said, "This is the first project to begin construction since the Nevada Legislature passed laws requiring utilities to supply a portion of their power from renewable energy resources." The electricity produced at the plant is already under contract to Sierra Pacific Power Company.

On November 14, 2005, Ormat's subsidiary, Ormat Nevada Inc., commissioned the first geothermal power plant constructed in Nevada under the Nevada Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) legislation, only eight months after ground breaking. Formerly known as the Galena 1 Project, the plant was renamed in honor of former Governor Kenny Guinn's late energy advisor Richard Dick Burdette Jr. It is an air-cooled binary power plant that re-injects 100% of all geothermal fluid produced, and consumes no water or chemicals. This state-of-the-art 20 MW geothermal power plant is integrated into the existing Steamboat geothermal complex and brings the total output supplied from Steamboat to Sierra Pacific Power to 45 MW, which is sufficient to power 45,000 homes.

Further Reading

Great Basin Center for Geothermal Energy. http://www.unr.edu/geothermal/.

Related Articles

None at this time.