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The Nevada Division of Minerals is the state’s regulatory authority for all geothermal wells drilled in Nevada. Geothermal wells drilled within Nevada, on either private or federally managed lands, must be permitted by the Nevada Division of Minerals. The associated drilling and completion programs must be approved by the Division before either program is implemented. The Division oversees the drilling and subsequent completion operations through daily reporting to the Division by the operator, as well as inspect the wells after they are completed. The Division must also approve all maintenance and work-over operations during the life of the well, as well as the final plugging and abandonment of a well at the end of its useful life. Geothermal production and injection information is submitted to the Division on a monthly basis, where the information is tabulated both monthly and annually.
Nevada Geothermal Resources and Production
Nevada’s geothermal resources are utilized in three major ways. The geothermal resources are used to generate electricity, for space heating, and commercial applications.
Nevada's geothermal electrical generation plants are located predominantly in the northern portion of the State. Nevada's geothermal plants can theoretically generate up to 827 megawatts of power collectively in any given hour. A megawatt is 1,000 kilowatts, which is enough electrical power to serve up to 800 typical households. Nevada has 26 plants in 17 different locations. The 2018 gross electrical output for Nevada's 25 geothermal plants was 4,544,175 MWh, with net output (sales) being 3,587,219 MWh. Nevada's electrical generation capacity from its geothermal plants is second only to California.
Geothermal energy is used to heat homes and businesses in numerous Nevada locations. The cities of Elko and Caliente have small heating districts that are approved by the Public Utility Commission to provide heat for buildings. A private heating district provides heat to homes in southwest Reno. Domestic geothermal heating systems utilizing an anomalous heat source provide heat to individual residences and ranches. Heat pump and ground source heat systems that do not utilize an anomalous heat source are not considered geothermal systems in Nevada.
Geothermal resources can be used to assist processing in both agricultural and mining operations. In the case of agriculture, heat from geothermal fluids is used in the dehydration process of vegetables. In mining, geothermal fluids have been used to assist in the separation of gold from associated ore.