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Recent Geothermal Projects/Exploration Activity


Geothermal exploration projects in the Great Basin (and adjacent areas) are described in the project list below, and may be viewed spatially in our Geothermal Application. Information about projects is from the Nevada Mineral Industry 2012 report, the Nevada Mineral Industry 2013 report, the Geothermal Energy Association's weekly newsletter Geothermal Energy Weekly and the blog GeoEnergyWire.


BLUE MOUNTAIN, HUMBOLDT COUNTY - Alternative Earth Resources (Nevada Geothermal Power)

The Nevada Geothermal Power, Inc. (NGP) Blue Mountain project area covers approximately 17.2 square miles (44.5 km2) in T36N, R34E of Humboldt County, encompassing a blind geothermal system with no visible hydrothermal features at the surface. It was located during gold exploration drilling that encountered high temperature water (up to 88°C) in the early 1990s (Parr and Percival, 1991). Maximum temperatures encountered at the site are 188°C (370.4°F) at approximately 2,000 feet (610 m) (Niggemann et al., 2009).
The Nevada Geothermal Power Inc. (NGP) Blue Mountain property underwent some financial restructuring in 2012, in part as a result of the revised predicted lower power output and required reinjection strategy needed to meet loan covenants during the remaining 17 year contracted life of the project. GeothermEx revised their previous reservoir simulation model and showed an 8°F/yr decline in reservoir temperatures, reducing estimated power output from previous model estimates. The power output was projected to fall below the average amount of 34 MW in 2012, decreasing to about 15 MW by 2020. As such, NGP hired Canaccord Genuity as a financial advisor to evaluate restructuring of its mezzanine debt. As a result of the debt restructuring, Alternative Earth Resources now operates the Faulkner 1 power plant, under contract to Blue Mountain Power LLC (a subsidiary of EIG Global Energy Partners), through its subsidiary Nevada Geothermal Operating Company LLC.
During this restructuring, the plant began to shift injection locations to avoid previously noted injection returns that cooled the geothermal fluids in the production zone too quickly. The revised and recalibrated GeothermEx reservoir model using production data indicates that the re-distribution of injection to 3 wells (58A-15, 38-14 and 89-11) would allow for contracted power requirements to be met for the remaining 17 years of the plant. Two of the injectors would shift injection further to the northeast and northwest and one producer would target the inferred zone of deep western heat after injection in this area has been relocated. Annual, updated reservoir simulation modeling is now required under the company’s loan agreement.


An artesian well in NE¼ NE¼ Sec. 7, Tl7N, R30E had reported temperatures of 70 - 77°C (C.W. Klein, oral commun., 1977). This may be the same well reported by Trexler and others (1981, Table D1) as a 52.4 meter, 72.8°C well in SW¼ SW¼ Sec. 6, T17N, R30E. This area is at or near two hot springs shown in N½ NW¼ Sec. 7 on the Carson Lake 7.5-minute Quadrangle map.
Unocal well 72-7 (SE¼ Sec. 7, T17N, R30E), located about 0.6 km south of the mapped hot springs, exceeded 100ºC at 300 m depth (Ross and others, 1996). Oxbow Power Services well 36-32 also measured hot water at 87.8ºC at 426.4 m (GeothermEx, 2004, Fig. FAL00-3). This area is a few kilometers southeast of the Fallon Naval Air Station thermal anomaly, and falls within a broad, shallow anomaly about 6 km long along the west side of the Bunejug Mountains (Ross and others, 1996).
Ormat Technologies, Inc. announced that they signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with Nevada Power Company for the sale of energy to be produced from their Carson Lake geothermal power plant, which had originally been projected to be online in late 2009 ( However, as of summer 2013, the property was still under development. In 2012, one production well and two observation wells were permitted, yet only one observation well was drilled.


The Ram Power Corp (TSX) Clayton Valley project consisted of several leases including Montezuma, Alkali, Alum, Pearl Hot Springs and Silver Peak, all of which were bundled and designated as their Clayton Valley projects. However, not all lease blocks are physically present in Clayton Valley. RAM acquired several leases in 2009 during a BLM lease sale, in addition to leases acquired from Sierra Geothermal Power (Alum, Silver Peak) when RAM took over most of Sierra’s properties in 2010. Ram conducted no work on any of the properties in 2011 or 2012, except for some minor reclamation work in 2011 at the Silver Peak lease.
In 2011, Ram Power Corp (TSX), which held several Nevada geothermal leases, closed their Reno offices when they focused their development activities on their San Jacinto, Nicaragua property. In December, 2012, Ram terminated its power purchase agreement (PPA) with Nevada Power for the properties comprising its Clayton Valley project.


Terra-Gen (TGP) has proposed to construct a 62 megawatt geothermal power plant at Coyote Canyon. This property is located on 3,960-acres of Federal and 760 acres of private lands within Dixie Valley. Plans are to deliver power to an existing transmission line via a short tie-in line from the new power plant. In 2012, TGP received authorization from the Carson City BLM office to begin exploration activities at its Coyote Canyon South property, which is directly south of the Coyote Canyon geothermal project area that was previously analyzed. Up to 15 wells were proposed to be drilled to 6,000 to 10,000 feet. No drilling activity was reported by the Nevada Division of Minerals at this property in 2012.


The Dixie Hope geothermal area is located in T22N, R35E and has been leased by Ormat Technologies. In 2012, Ormat permitted three thermal gradient wells and drilled two of them to approximately 1000 feet. No additional information is available for this site.

EDWARDS CREEK AREA (Tungsten Mountain), CHURCHILL COUNTY - Ormat Technologies Inc.

The Edwards Creek project encompasses 4,160 acres (1,683 ha) along 6 miles (9.6 kilometers) of the Clan Alpine Mountains range-front fault in T21N, R38E, Churchill County. Areas of hydrothermal alteration occur along the fault, and boiling water was encountered at shallow depths by 23 mineral exploration wells. Cation and silica geothermometer temperatures from well waters suggest an approximately 175°C (~347°F) reservoir. The Great Basin Center for Geothermal Energy identified a shallow (2 m) thermal anomaly that is coincident with the location of the hot mineral exploration wells at the site identified at Tungsten Mountain. Standard Steam Trust (SST) completed a detailed gravity survey that showed a southeast dip of ~60° for the range-front fault, which would place the reservoir at feasible depths beneath SST's leaseholds. Ormat Technologies is currently developing the resource. In the latter part of 2011, Ormat permitted five 1000-foot temperature gradient wells in Sections 22 and 23 of T21N, R38E.
Another project in the Edwards Creek Valley southwest of and contiguous with the above project encompasses 7,617 acres (3,082ha) covering 8 miles (13 km) of the Clan Alpine Mountains range-front fault in T20N and R37 and R38E. SST’s 2008 gravity survey identified the location of the Clan Alpine fault as well as a sub-parallel fault that lies basinward of the range-front fault. This sub-parallel fault may be the more significant of the two faults and is believed to be the fault associated with high-temperature ground water encountered by shallow exploration drilling at Edwards Creek in 2005 and 2006. Ormat Technologies is also developing this portion of the Edwards Creek Valley. Five observation wells were permitted, and one was drilled by Ormat in 2012.

FLORIDA CANYON, PERSHING COUNTY – Florida Canyon Mine/ElectraTherm

The Florida Canyon geothermal project is a small power generation unit associated with the Florida Canyon gold mine in T31N, R33E. This mine has been active for approximately 20 years, and is adjacent to the Rye Patch/Humboldt House geothermal area.
In 2009 and 2010 a small, 50-kW geothermal plant manufactured by ElectraTherm (Reno, NV) operated for a thousand hours at the Florida Canyon gold mine. This “Green Machine” used in the project is a low-temperature Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) unit designed to convert low-temperature waste heat into electricity. Although the unit produced less than 5% of the mine’s electrical needs, it produced electricity from otherwise unused heat from one of the mine’s hot wells. ElectraTherm was awarded a $982,000 Phase 1 DOE research grant at the end of 2010 to optimize their Green Machine to specifically use geothermal brines, with Florida Canyon as the test site. Successful R&D during 2011 caused the DOE to award additional funding for Phases II and III to manufacture and commission a newly developed, more powerful 75 kWe “geothermal” Green Machine with a cleanable heat exchanger. The unit has been built and was tested in 2011 at ElectraTherm. It was installed at the Florida Canyon Mine and successfully commissioned in 2012. The 75 kWe plant is operating on 225-230°F (107-110°C) water flowing into the unit at 150 gpm (Electratherm web site, July 2013; The only other unit in Nevada producing at such low temperatures is located at the Wabuska geothermal site, which was first commissioned in 1984.


Gradient Resources Inc., a privately held corporation headquartered in Reno, Nevada, has been conducting exploration and confirmation drilling and assessments on the Patua geothermal property for the last several years. The Patua geothermal project is located about 38 miles (61 kilometers) east of Reno and 10 miles (16.1 kilometers) east of Fernley. Thirteen hot springs occur in the project area that range in temperature from 28 to 96°C (82 to 204ºF). In 1962, Magma Power drilled three wells from 300 to 750 ft (91 to 230 m), recoding a maximum temperature of 132°C (270ºF). ( In 2008 and 2009, Vulcan conducted an extensive exploration program including well drilling and core drilling; geological, geochemical, and geophysical surveys; and well discharge testing. Gradient Resources (formerly Vulcan) indicated a possible resource size of up to 120 MW (Jennejohn, 2011). “Currently, Gradient is focusing its development efforts on the southwestern portion of the Patua geothermal leases. Construction on the Patua Geothermal Power Plant site began during Q3 2011, with commercial operations slated for the end of 2012.” ( However, this commissioning date was not met, and as of summer 2013, commercial operation had not yet begun although significant construction activities had been completed (pipelines, cooling towers).
The power plant itself is located on private property, although wells are located on federal lands under BLM lease in Churchill and Lyon counties. Initial construction work at the Patua site, located near Fernley, Nevada, began in 2011. The lending group, led by Union Bank, N.A., included Canadian Imperial Bank (CIBC), ING Capital LLC, and Siemens Financial Services. The Patua Project will proceed in phases, the first being a 30 MW power plant, under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). Gradient’s Patua plant will become operational and is set to deliver power to the grid in October of 2013. Work began in 2011 on Patua II with the drilling of 4 thermal gradient holes. In total, Gradient has drilled 14 production wells, many of which were core holes. Drilling began in 2008 with three production wells; three observation wells were drilled in 2009, and five, three, and three production wells were drilled in 2010, 2011, and 2012, respectively.


The Jersey Valley geothermal area is located at the base of the western flank of the Fish Creek Range in Pershing County (T27N, R40E) at the northern end of Dixie Valley at the Pershing/Lander county line, likely along the projection of a range-front fault shown by Stewart and Carlson (1976). Early temperature estimates using silica and Na-K-Ca geothermometers suggested reservoir temperatures of 142°C and 182°C, respectively (Mariner and others, 1974). Ormat Nevada Inc. began drilling in this area in 2007, encountering valley fill and metasedimentary rocks of the Fish Creek Range. A 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) between Ormat Technologies Inc. and NV Energy was established. Ormat proceeded to drill three observation wells in 2007, two production wells in 2008, four production wells in 2009, one production well in 2010 and one injection well in 2011. One additional injection well was drilled in 2012, with another three injection wells permitted. On February 1, 2011, Ormat Technologies announced the completion of the new power plant at Jersey Valley. The 15 MW facility is operating under at 20 year power purchase agreement (PPA) with NV Energy (GRC Bulletin 40(2): 2011). Details of the exploration and development of the Jersey Valley property can be found in Drakos et al. (2010).

McGINNESS HILLS, LANDER COUNTY - Ormat Technologies Inc.

Ormat Technologies, Inc. has been actively engaged in geothermal development drilling since 2009 at the McGinness Hills property in Lander County. Precious metal exploration of surface sinter in Lander County identified an otherwise blind geothermal system at this Lander County site. Drilling of seven thermal gradient wells and two observation wells encountered hot water having high geothermometer temperatures, leading to a November 2009 announcement of a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) between Ormat Technologies, Inc. and NV Energy. Five production wells were drilled in 2010 and three in 2011, and one injection well in 2012. Construction of a 30 MWe (net) plant began in 2010 and continued through 2012. Commercial production at McGinness Hills commenced July 26, 2012.


The pool was demolished in 2012 after having been closed for five years due to high maintenance costs. Nevertheless, the district heating systems at Manzanita and Warren estates continue to operate, helping to maintain high home values in the area. Additionally, the Peppermill Casino developed a space heating project from this resource in 2010, with an estimated $1.2 M annual savings in heating costs of its facilities.


The Reese River area is an approximately 150°C blind geothermal system that occupies a 10 km-long by 5 km-wide basin between the Shoshone Mountains and the Shoshone Range. Nick Hinz and James Faulds (NBMG) conducted geologic mapping in the area in 2009-2010. One map was published, which includes cross-sections (NBMG OFR 11-3), and a GRC paper in 2011 was also published, documenting the structural framework of the area (Hinz et al., 2011). Sierra Geothermal drilled 10 thermal gradient holes in late 2009 and also conducted an MT survey in the area in late 2009 and early 2010 (N.H. Hinz, personal commun., July 2013). Ram Power acquired the property from Sierra Geothermal by the second quarter of 2010.
No work was done on the property in 2011 and 2012, except for minor reclamation work. Ram Power has closed their Reno offices, and there is no current indication that development is proceeding on this property.


On March 20, 2007 Enel North America, Inc. (a subsidiary of Enel S.p.A., Italy ) purchased AMP Resources LLC from AMP Capital Partners and a minority investor. Salt Wells is one of the two properties acquired by Enel, the other being Stillwater. In April 2009, Enel North America inaugurated its new 18 MW gross-capacity binary geothermal power plant at Salt Wells, bringing the power plant facility to two binary power units in Sections 23, 24, 25, 26, 35, and 36 of T17N, R30E. Enel continues active drilling at Salt Wells with three additional observation wells and one production well drilled in 2012. Previous (2009-2010) exploration and drilling activity by Vulcan (now Gradient Resources) and Ormat in the Salt Wells/Eightmile Flat area are apparently on hiatus as these companies focus efforts on other properties.


In 2007, U.S. Geothermal, Inc. announced the completion of a transaction with Michael Stewart and Empire Geothermal Power to acquire the Empire geothermal power plant and 28,358 acres of geothermal leases and ground-water rights in Washoe County (T29N, R23E) for $16.62 million. The transaction also included assets from Granite Creek. The San Emidio property includes the Empire power plant and approximately 22,944 acres of leases and ground-water rights.
U.S. Geothermal had plans to develop a 35-megawatt power project for the San Emidio resource. A $75- to $85 million plan called for the construction of twin binary-cycle plants, with the anticipation that the current well field could provide approximately 75% of the geothermal fluid requirement for one of the binary plants, and an expanded production and injection well field could be drilled to provide the balance of the needed geothermal fluid for the second phase, to make, in total, a 27-megawatt development (U.S. Geothermal, Inc. and Nevada Geothermal Update, Nevada Division of Minerals, May 2008). The development was planned in two stages: repower and expansion. During the first stage, the existing 3.6 MW plant was replaced with a new, more efficient 11.75-MW power plant (8.6 MW net) that utilizes the existing, proven geothermal reservoir. The second stage requires drilling new production wells and the construction of an upgraded transmission line to allow for increased power production. This expansion is expected to produce an additional 26 MW.
Construction on the 11.75 MW gross (8.6 MW net) replacement of the existing 3.6 MW binary plant proceeded through most of 2011, and plant startup and power generation began in the last quarter of 2011. However, various mechanical difficulties prevented commercial production from being achieved until 2012.
Regarding exploration at San Emidio, USG encountered the highest temperatures found to date at the property (160°C, 320°F) after deepening well 45-21 beyond 800 feet. Also in Section 21, well OW-10 intersected +149°C (300°F) temperatures with accompanying permeability. Several miles east of the plant area, USG drilled three <3,000-foot observation wells in Section 16. One of these wells, OW-8, encountered shallow- and intermediate-depth permeable zones and had a recorded bottom-well temperature of 157°C (315°F).
In January, 2012, U.S. Geothermal Inc. announced that the Nevada Public Utility Commission approved a 19.9 megawatt amended power purchase agreement (PPA) with its wholly owned subsidiary, USG Nevada LLC, for the San Emidio Project. The amended PPA expands the existing 3.6 megawatt agreement to provide for the purchase of electric power by the Sierra Pacific Power Company ("SPCC") for up to 19.9 MW from two power generation units at San Emidio. The PPA has a term of 25 years with the starting price for power of $89.75 per megawatt-hour subject to an annual escalation rate of 1%. The new Phase I power plant, which is an 8.6 megawatt (net) water cooled facility, was constructed to replace the original plant using no additional wells. This new unit uses the cost-efficient working fluid R134a, which is non-flammable, non-toxic and non-corrosive, reducing capital and operating costs.
In early 2012, USG started performance testing on the new 8.6 net MW facility. Performance testing included guaranteed output, capacity, reliability, and continuous operation tests that the plant must pass to achieve commercial operation under the PPA. The plant experienced several operational and mechanical issues that were resolved to eliminate difficulties that include defective capacitors, the mechanical failure of the 2,500 horsepower process pump, and excessive vibration in the turbine gear box.
Commercial operations began in May 2012, and the new San Emidio plant is projected to generate approximately 75,000 MWh of electrical power each year. The old unit that this plant replaces generated approximately 23,000 MWh annually for 20 years (since 1987). Hence, the new, more efficient TAS unit is producing more than double the power output of the aging unit, while using no additional wells.
In April 2012, the Phase II project, a second 8.6 net megawatt power plant, was granted a Special Use Permit by the Washoe County Planning Commission. Drilling for Phase II began in September 2013.


Silver Peak Hot Springs are located near the western edge of Clayton Valley playa, just north of Silver Peak (shown at NW¼ SE¼ SE¼ Sec. 15, T2S, R39E on the Goldfield 30´x 60´ topographic map). Eleven springs were originally reported in the area, and the water was used for the municipal water supply (Waring, 1965). By 1980, the site was reported to be dry (Trexler, , et al., 1981; Table E2).
The springs had a maximum reported temperature of 47.8°C (Waring, 1965). Mariner et al. (1983, p. 105) estimated the reservoir temperature to be 140ºC and 142ºC using silica and Na-K-Ca geothermometers, respectively, and Reed et al. (1983, p. 40) reported a flow rate of 1,890 L/min. Silver Peak Hot Springs were reportedly quite radioactive, but contained very small amounts of uranium (Garside, 1973).
A mild thermal anomaly can be found 3 km SW of Silver Peak, at the 24.6ºC monitor well pumping station (Sec. 28, T2S, R39E). NBMG field samplers were allowed access in June 2008 by Chemetall Foote. The estimated reservoir temperatures are 74.8ºC (Ca-Na-K; Fournier and Potter, 1979) and 66.8ºC (chalcedony; Fournier, 1977). A monitor well 1 km NE measured warm (Jennings, personal comm., 2008), as did a second pumping station well (26ºC; NWIS Well 143 S02 E39 28BDBB1; see Penfield et al., 2012).
Chemetall Foote (a subsidiary of Rockwood Lithium, the operator at Silver Peak) plans to double the capacity of its lithium carbonate production. Rockwood obtained a Department of Energy grant to be used to help install a geothermal power plant at the site, which the company hopes will supply the majority of electric power needs for the lithium mine (Company web site:, July 2013). Toward this end, Rockwood Lithium drilled one observation well that was permitted as a geothermal well to a depth of approximately 5,000 ft in December, 2012. Details of the results of this well are not available.


In 2004, AMP Resources LLC. purchased the Stillwater Power Plant and associated geothermal resources from Stillwater Holdings LLC. In August 2005 AMP Resources applied to the Nevada Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for a permit to construct a 37-MW binary geothermal power plant adjacent to the existing Stillwater power plant. In May 2006 the PUC approved a permit to build a 26-MW power plant to replace the existing Stillwater plant, online since 1989. Enel North America subsequently acquired the Stillwater property from AMP Resources
On November 16, 2007 Enel Stillwater, LLC received a special use permit from Churchill County to construct the Stillwater 2 power plant. In April 2009, Enel North America, Inc., a subsidiary of Enel S.p.A., Italy, inaugurated its new 47.2 MW gross-capacity Stillwater binary plant.
In 2011, Enel commissioned the first hybrid geothermal-solar power plant in the world, with plant capacities of 24 MW (solar) and 33.1 MW (geothermal) (
In March 2012, Enel Green Power (through its subsidiary Enel Green Power North America) expanded the capacity of the Stillwater solar power plant from 24 MW to 26 MW (89,000 solar panels). Enel subsequently won the 2012 Geothermal Energy Association Technology Advancement Award for its unique contributions to advancing geothermal power production. The Enel geothermal-solar hybrid unit has the advantages of increased power production from the solar plant during times of decreased efficiency in geothermal power production in mid-day in the summer months. And when the solar unit produces less power in the winter months, geothermal power production is more efficient. This allows the hybrid plant to better follow the power-demand load.


The Tuscarora geothermal project is located on the west side of the Independence Mountains at the north end of the Independence Valley graben. The geothermal area includes six springs, one geyser, and one fumarole. These occur in a narrow belt approximately 3 km long along a northerly striking fault zone (Dering and Faulds, 2012). Waters from the hot springs were analyzed and subsurface temperatures of 228ºC and 167ºC (442ºF and 333ºF) were indicated by the Na-K-Ca and silica geothermometers, respectively. In an AMAX Exploration, Inc., Tuscarora Area, Nevada, Final Report, (August 1981, NBMG files), H.D. Pilkington reported that a test discovery well, with a total depth of 5,454 feet, encountered a low-temperature reservoir. There was some difficulty in completing the well due to some lost circulation zones. Drilling on the well had to be stopped short of target and before a high temperature reservoir was discovered. The well was flow tested at approximately 1,200 barrels per hour with temperatures ranging from 69º to 108ºC (156º to 225ºF). In 2003-2004 Earth Power Resources, which had the lease on the resource rights at that time, discovered a geothermal resource over 166ºC (330ºF) between the depths of 2,950 and 3,810 feet. Eventually this lease was transferred to TG Power LLC.
In 2007, TG Power LLC began to move forward with the development of a 48-MW-net power plant at Hot Sulphur Springs. However, no activity occurred on the property in 2008 and 2009. Ormat Technologies ultimately acquired the leases to the property and drilled three production wells in 2010 for the planned 18 MW power plant. Work on Ormat’s 30 MW (gross), 18 MW (net) air-cooled binary plant continued through 2011 and achieved commercial production in the first quarter of 2012.
The Tuscarora project’s success is the result of years of work by several private companies. Earth Power Resources signed a PPA with NV Energy but could not demonstrate commercial viability, and sold the project to TG Power in 2006. TG Power drilled a moderately successful production hole in 2007, but ran out of money and sold the project to the Energy Investment Fund in 2008. After the passage of Nevada’s bill AB522 in 2009, ORMAT became interested in Tuscarora and found a way, using tax adjustments, to make the project commercially viable. (

WILD ROSE, MINERAL COUNTY – Ormat Technologies

Ormat Technologies is developing the blind geothermal project at Wild Rose, located in Gabbs Valley approximately 22 miles west of Gabbs in Mineral County. This system is apparently associated with intersections between northwest-striking Walker Lane dextral faults and northeast-striking normal faults. Plans are to construct and operate a 15-35MW net (up to 40 MW gross) geothermal power plant and electrical substation, which includes construction and operation of a 22-mile, 120-kV generation-tie to highway 261, along with a switching station. Plans call for drilling, testing, and operation of 18 geothermal production and injection wells, and possible conversion of exploration wells to production or injection wells in subsequent phases of development. One observation well was completed in 2011, and one injection, one observation and three production wells were completed in 2012 to depths of 1,500 to 1,800 ft (permitted depths).