Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2014

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Councilman urges city to consider geothermic power plants

Travis Chandler

Travis Chandler

Heat beating down on Nevada’s desert means solar power works well in the state.

But heat from below Nevada’s desert should be utilized, too, by renewable power companies, one Boulder City councilman says.

Travis Chandler said geothermic and geothermal power plants are as attractive to the city as solar power plants.

Last night at a BC Facts meeting at the Boulder City Library, Chandler told about 30 residents Nevada is a “hot” state— an area of past vulcanism that means the magma below the earth’s surface is at an especially high temperature.

Resident Richard McHale organizes BC Facts community discussions Mondays before City Council meetings. He said he hopes the meetings will spur ideas for how to reduce the city’s long-term debt. Solar plant leases bring the city consistent revenue, and geothermic plants could do the same at a lower cost to power users, he said.

Last year, Chandler secured a question on this year’s June municipal election ballot asking voters whether the city should allow geothermal power generation in the Eldorado Valley Energy Zone, which currently encourages only solar power plants to build there.

The city gets about $2 million in leases every year from three solar companies in the energy zone. The city is in the process of approving leases that could bring in another $4 million a year.

Chandler and McHale said Boulder City is an ideal place for geothermic plants for the same reason solar plants are sprouting here — nearby electric power substations and a quick permitting process.

Chandler said geothermic power, derived from hot rocks four to six miles below the earth’s surface, is additionally attractive because the rocks never cool down. The sun goes behind clouds during the day and sets at night, reducing solar power’s capacity. That makes geothermic plants more efficient, Chandler said.

Geothermic Solution LLC, a Las Vegas company, recently proposed leasing land near the Western Area Power Administration substation on Buchanan Boulevard.

The closed-loop plant would be quiet, have no emissions and would generate about 250 megawatts of energy, said Kirk Harrison, the company’s executive vice president and general counsel.

If the Boulder City Planning Commission decides the area is appropriate for geothermic power, the City Council would have to change the Land Management Plan and the city would have to work out a lease.

Chandler said he’s optimistic the plant would be a pilot for the company, and more geothermic plants could sprout up around town, bringing a new revenue stream just as solar plants did.

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