Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

Nevada Site Home to Geothermal Community Focused on Expediting Research and Development

May 26, 2016

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The team at Brady Hot Springs includes scientists and engineers from: University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Geoscience; Ormat Technologies, Inc.; Silixa Ltd.; University of Nevada-Reno; Temple University; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. | Photo by Dan Koetke

The team at Brady Hot Springs includes scientists and engineers from: University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Geoscience; Ormat Technologies, Inc.; Silixa Ltd.; University of Nevada-Reno; Temple University; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. | Photo by Dan Koetke

Fumaroles at Brady Hot Springs, Nevada. | Photo by Dante Fratta

Fumaroles at Brady Hot Springs, Nevada. | Photo by Dante Fratta

As an existing geothermal production field with a diverse geology amenable to both hydrothermal resources and Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS), Brady Hot Springs in Nevada has been a target of geothermal development for decades. Over the last six years the site has become a hotbed of activity for innovative geothermal research and development (R&D). Since 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) has funded a wide array of innovative geothermal R&D and demonstration projects toward the mission of accelerating and developing domestic geothermal electricity and energy, including game-changing EGS technology.

What’s special about Brady Hot Springs?

Brady Hot Springs is a geothermal field producing power in a sparsely populated region of northern Nevada in the “Basin and Range” extensional geologic regime. The field, operated by Ormat Technologies since 1992, hosts six production wells and supplies approximately 14 megawatts (MW) of electricity to the grid. The location also supports a robust research community due to the amount of publicly available data, length of operations, relatively shallow (1-2 kilometer) geothermal reservoir, and relatively high reservoir temperatures (175°-205° C).

What is this “geothermal community”?

With the nearly constant and frequently overlapping research efforts at Brady Hot Springs over the years, a unique community has formed. Scientists, engineers, geothermal operators, and utilities work comfortably together in a collaborative ecosystem, within which everyone works toward similar goals and leverages others’ work and data. 

Who are a few of the members of this collaborative community?

There are too many to list! One example is the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which is currently assessing a technology for characterizing and monitoring changes in the mechanical properties of rock in an EGS reservoir in 3D at Brady Hot Springs. The project team is large and pulls in a wide variety of specialties and backgrounds, including researchers from Ormat, Temple University, University of Nevada-Reno, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and Silixa.

How have researchers, including the Wisconsin team, benefited from the collaborative ecosystem so far?

The University of Wisconsin-Madison team, with established and readily available lessons learned and best practices, completed the permitting necessary for field work on an impressive timeline. Due to the number of entities involved and the uniqueness of innovative field research and the site itself, permitting timelines require tight management and thorough communication.

The collaborative ecosystem built slowly over the years through ongoing geothermal research at this site facilitated easy communication and management in this case, and field work is underway. This is only the most recent example of relationship-driven efficiency; the site is host to a number of these cases, and it certainly won’t be the last.