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South-Reno Geothermal Plant Expansion Begins

By John Seelmeyer

Ormat Techologies has launched an expansion project at its Steamboat Hills geothermal plant in Reno — an expansion that will reduce the plant’s visibility on the hillside just south of The Summit Sierra shopping center.

The expansion involves the installation of a new geothermal plant that can produce 30 megawatts of electricity. The new plant replaces an existing 10-megawatt system.

Kyle Snyder, senior director for business development at Reno-based Ormat, said the new facility will be air-cooled and will use a technology that will eliminate water consumption.

As a result, the steam plume that’s sometimes visible on cold days from the existing plant’s cooling tower no longer will be a feature on Reno’s southern horizon.

Construction, which began this summer, is scheduled for completion early next year.

Along with the new equipment, Snyder said the work will involve the drilling of one new well on land that Ormat leases from the U.S. Forest Service. Most of the project is located on a 9.5- acre privately owned parcel.

Southern California Public Power Authority buys the power produced by the Steamboat plant.

The Ormat plant is part of a complex of six geothermal power plants at Steamboat, Together, they generate 73 megawatts of baseload, renewable power — enough to meet all the residential requirements of Reno.

Health spas in the 1800s were the first to tap into the hot springs heated by the geothermal resources in the Steamboat area.

Scientists began looking at the area as the possible location of geothermal power plans in the 1950s and 1960s, development of the Steamboat field began in the 1980s and the current complex has been operating since 1988.