Monday, February 25, 2013

The Solution Is Here. (So Why Not Solve the Problem Already?)

Once again, we're reminded of the immense potential of renewable energy here in Nevada. Up north, Reno is poised to become a global leader in geothermal research, development, and power generation. The seeds have already been planted...

“Reno has the highest concentration of geothermal companies probably in the world,” said Steve Hirsch, director of the East Africa Geothermal Partnership, part of the U.S. Energy Association.

Karl Gawell of the national Geothermal Energy Association said, “What’s happening around the world is you’re seeing a strong core of development in Indonesia and the Philippines, but in the U.S. there’s not a city that would come close to Reno.”

Regarding our geothermal stature, there’s good news and bad news.

The good news is that world geothermal energy development is exploding, and Reno people and companies will be tapped for their expertise in exploration, training, design, equipment and maintenance, bringing much needed money back into the community.

But are they being properly watered?

On one hand, we have groundbreaking geothermal programs at UNR and Truckee Meadows. We've also seen geothermal start-up's grow into strong businesses. As the global geothermal market continues to explode, Northern Nevada is poised to be a global leader.

But there's a catch. Even as overall global geothermal demand grows, we're not seeing as much of that right here in Nevada. And a major reason for this lies in what Harry Reid told legislators in Carson City last week. It's difficult to grow the renewable energy sector here when the state's electric monopoly is going out of its way not to invest in local, home-grown renewable energy.

“We want to fix that and a lot of legislators are looking at how do we spur development and projects,” said [Paul Thomsen, director of policy and business development for Reno based geothermal firm Ormat Technologies] . “These are gold mines for Nevada’s rural counties. Development in this state will come to a complete stop because developers can’t invest large amounts of capital to do exploration work if they don’t see power purchase agreements on the horizon.”

It's ridiculous. It's inefficient. It's counterproductive. And it's just plain stupid. Why aren't we using the power we have right here in Nevada?

Last month, ALL of the new electrical generating capacity came from renewable sources. The potential is here. Yet we risk falling behind other states and other countries as they more aggressively pursue both geothermal and overall renewable energy development.

Oh, and by the way, the climate crisis is still here. We can't ignore the real threat at our doorstep. And that's why it's even more imperative that we develop more renewable energy capacity that can easily be attained here in Nevada.

So what are we waiting for? What is NV Energy waiting for? And what are Nevada legislators waiting for? This needs to be fixed. Both our state economy and our planet's well-being depend on switching from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewables. It's time to start doing that. (And we can start by closing the loopholes in Nevada's renewable portfolio.)

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