Pessimism over green power seen as overdone

The sky is not falling on the nation’s renewable energy industry, a trade group leader says, and, in fact, Nevada’s biggest renewable power resource industries is booming.

The number of new geothermal power projects increased 20 percent since January and nowhere is geothermal development hotter than in Nevada, said Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association. Geothermal power comes from hot underground water and steam.

Gawell wonders if the “sky-is-falling-rhetoric” from some renewable energy groups “isn’t overdone.”

Several things can help spur new renewable energy initiatives: state requirements for renewable energy use by utilities, high prices for other fuels and federal tax credits, he said.

“At least for the moment, two of the three are there,” Gawell said.

Gawell said Congress’ failure to extend tax credits for renewable energy is slowing the industry but it has not slammed the brakes on renewable energy growth, as some have said. Instead, some developers are just building smaller projects than originally planned, he said.

Nevada has 45 projects under way with the potential to generate up to 1,900 megawatts of electricity, according to the association. Most of the state’s geothermal resources are in the north.

Sierra Pacific Resources Chief Executive Officer Michael Yackira has expressed interest in building a major transmission line linking Sierra Pacific Power Co. to its Southern Nevada subsidiary, Nevada Power Co., so that the Las Vegas company can use some of the geothermal power being generated in the northern part of the state.

Yackira fears that the Silver State’s geothermal power will be exported to California and other states if Nevada Power cannot get a transmission line to Northern Nevada. Sierra Pacific Power, a Reno-based affiliate of Nevada Power, already generates virtually all of the power its customers consume.

A few years ago, geothermal development had all but stopped, Gawell said.

The trade group now counts 103 projects under way in a dozen states, including Nevada. The projects could generate 4,000 megawatts of power, enough to meet the needs of 4 million homes, the association said.

In January, the association counted 86 new projects with a potential of producing 3,368 megawatts of power.

The Western Governors Geothermal Task Force projected that geothermal power could total 15,000 megawatts by 2025. Existing geothermal plants in the United State can generate 2,957 megawatts of electricity.

Contact reporter John G. Edwards at or 702-383-0420.

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