David Crockett/Nevada Sagebrush U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz reads research projects presented by University of Nevada, Reno graduate students on Wednesday, Oct. 22. The projects focus on geothermal energy in Nevada.

David Crockett/Nevada Sagebrush
U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz reads research projects presented by University of Nevada, Reno graduate students on Wednesday, Oct. 22. The projects focus on geothermal energy in Nevada.

By Jennifer Marbley

U.S. Secretary of Energy Dr. Ernest Moniz met with a group of graduate students at the Joe Crowley Student Union to review research projects in geothermal energy on Wednesday, Oct. 22. University of Nevada, Reno graduate students presented new research plans to help Nevada harness the potential of its geological research to become a leader in the production of geothermal energy.

According to Moniz, geothermal is a steady, renewable source of energy, unlike wind and solar. He said that it’s called “dispatchable,” energy, meaning it is always available, while wind and solar energy can be affected by variables such as weather. Geothermal energy also produces little to no greenhouse gases, making it a profitable resource for Nevada.

“The major sources for geothermal [energy] are in Nevada and California,” Moniz said. “Nevada is where we have huge amounts of money invested into geothermal energy. Nevada is really a leader in this.”

At the gathering with UNR students, Moniz said that the U.S. Department of Energy has invested over $75 million in Nevada to encourage research and education around renewable energy that will lead to future job opportunities.

Neil Pearson is a graduate student working at the Great Basin Center for Geothermal Energy at UNR. The GBCGE was a response to the U.S. Department of Energy’s initiative to invest more funding into renewable energy research.

The funding invested in geothermal research helped Pearson develop his current project on the aerial remote sensing of geothermal systems.

“What I deal with are cameras that can see both in the visible and infrared wavelengths of light,” Pearson said. “Using that, you can determine the different mineralogies.”

According to Pearson, his project focuses on the first steps to mapping an area that may yield geothermal resources. In the next 10 to 15 years, NASA plans to use satellites to map entire states for energy sources.
The projects presented on Wednesday took 1 to 2 years to develop. Moniz said he that was impressed with the diversity of the projects presented and the number of students engaged in geothermal research projects.

Joseph Dierkhising, a graduate student in geophysics, presented his project to Moniz about exploring northern Nevada for renewable energy sources. He works with the Nevada Seismological Lab where he focuses on geothermal exploration and production.

Dierkhising said that there’s great potential for geothermal energy development in Nevada in the future. Renewable energy could be great for Nevada’s economy with the use of more dispatchable resources, according to Dierkhising.

“With more research we’ll have better results and they’ll hopefully provide a better source green sustainable energy here in the western U.S.,” Dierkhising said.

Jennifer Marbley can be reached at jmarbley@sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @missmarbley.