Nevada Campus to be Fully Powered by Geothermal Energy

Nevada Campus to be Fully Powered by Geothermal Energy

Nevada will soon have the only college campus in the world completely powered by renewable energy.

A new 30-year agreement between Advanced Thermal Systems, Inc. of Reno and the University of Nevada, Reno will bring advanced geothermal technology to provide heat and power for the collaborative new Redfield Campus and provide a new source of clean, affordable power for Northern Nevada.

Under the agreement, ATS will build and operate an 11 MW Kalina Cycle geothermal power plant adjacent to the new campus. The plant will provide electricity, hot and chilled water. It will also supply hot water to support university research in areas such as hydroponics and aquaculture. ATS hopes to sell excess electricity generated to Sierra Pacific to help the local utility meet growing regional energy needs.

“A great deal of thought and planning has gone into this project. It will offer an extraordinary opportunity to advance research and education, and to demonstrate Nevada’s national leadership in exploring geothermal energy,” said John Lilley, university president.

“We will be meeting the heating, cooling and electrical power needs of the Redfield Campus and, at the same time, shaping another valuable laboratory for our Great Basin Center for Geothermal Energy (see attached story), which is rapidly becoming one of the nation’s top centers for education and research on geothermal resources.”

ATS’ affiliates already own a geothermal plant at the southern edge of Reno, near the Redfield campus. The firm hopes to complete the new facility on a timetable that complements first phase construction of the new branch campus.

“The Kalina Cycle technology is the most efficient method of zero-emissions, 100% renewable geothermal energy production available today,” said Shuman Moore, president of ATS.

“Heat and electrical power can be provided at a price competitive with power plants fired by natural gas or coal, without the emissions of fossil fuel plants,” Moore said. “We applaud the University of Nevada for taking this progressive step in demonstrating the viability and effectiveness of geothermal-based energy in Nevada.”

The new central utility plant will be designed to meet an initial campus load of about 500 kilowatts of electricity. It will be scaled up as demand grows with the campus. The plant will provide building heat through a system of heat exchangers. Cooling will be provided through an absorption chilling system.

“This will be a complete system for powering, heating and cooling the Redfield Campus facilities, all of it connected to the geothermal resources underground,” Moore said. “It will be a model not only for universities, but also for other commercial and industrial facilities that want to take advantage of the abundant geothermal resource in Nevada and around the West.”

According to the University’s Great Basin Center, there are currently 13 power plants operating at nine geothermal sites in Nevada. They produce about 1.2 million megawatt-hours of electricity annually, making Nevada second only to California in installed geothermal capacity.

In 2001, the Nevada Assembly passed a new energy standard for the state that will require 15% of power in Nevada to be produced by renewable energy sources by 2013.

Like the main Nevada campus, the Redfield Campus is located in Reno. The branch, scheduled to open in 2004, is a cooperative venture involving the university and nearby Truckee Meadows Community College, Reno, and Western Nevada Community College, Carson City. At first, the campus will center on an 84,000-square-foot general-purpose classroom building. As part of the new agreement, ATS will construct an 800-square-foot state-of-the-art classroom at its new facility for educational use by the university.

Other terms specify that campus energy costs will be set at $210,000 per year with annual increases limited to one%. After 10 years, the university system will have an opportunity to purchase the project.

The Nell J. Redfield Foundation donated 60 acres and $5 million for initial construction in 1995 to establish the new campus. A $5.2 million appropriation from the Nevada Assembly added to funding in 1999. TMCC is slated to begin construction of the first building on the Redfield campus in April or May.

According the ATS officials, the Kalina Cycle technology will use geothermal heat to vaporize a benign ammonia-water “working fluid,” with vapor produced in the process to drive the electricity-producing turbine generators. The Kalina Cycle technology differs from traditional binary cycle geothermal plants in that it allows for a more efficient delivery of heat through variable vaporization and condensation of the working fluid.