Geothermal – Good for Our Rural Communities

Drilling a geothermal well in Churchill County, Nevada - photo: Churchill County Economic Development Authority

Opinion

Given the recent economic turmoil in our state and the nation as a whole, devising a means of economic stimulus and stemming the tide of job loss is at the forefront of our minds. Right on time, the Dixie Meadows Geothermal project is focused on supporting Nevada both in terms of reaching the state’s ambitious clean energy goals and providing job opportunities for Nevadans to immediately bolster our state’s economic recovery. 

Through my work with the Churchill Economic Development Authority (CEDA) and as a member of a rural community we have seen first-hand how these projects can help give already economically disadvantaged rural communities a much-needed boost in the right direction. With a 10 percent unemployment rate and mass layoffs across the state, Churchill County and Nevada as a whole needs projects like this now more than ever.

Development of the 30 MW Dixie Meadows Geothermal Project will require a $270 million dollar capital investment in Churchill County and produce $4M annually in operations, taxes, and royalties for the community. The project will employ over 300 construction and operations workers through construction and permanent employment. 

This new state-of-the-art geothermal facility will provide additional electricity for 22,000 homes while offsetting four million tons of CO2, providing the highest level of efficiency and safety in the renewable energy industry. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), in coordination with the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the US Navy, Naval Air Station Fallon required environmental protection and mitigation measures for the project including the development of an Aquatic Resources Monitoring and Mitigation Plan (ARMMP). 

Mitigation measures included in the plan will ensure that significant adverse effects on aquatic resources, riparian and wetland habitat, and aquatic special status species does not occur. In addition to the ARMMP, Ormat has also committed to no disturbance from project activities within riparian and wetland habitat areas. Through BLM consultation with the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone tribe, measures were also put in place to ensure protection of all cultural resources throughout the project area. 

This plan was developed by Ormat Technologies with assistance from the above agencies to minimize the environmental footprint and social and cultural impact of the project. After extensive collection of baseline data, and the inclusion of the mitigation measures listed above and ongoing environmental monitoring tactics throughout the life of the project, this plan alleviates any concerns that CEDA may have had.

Sustainable clean energy projects like these have a profound economic impact on often rural host communities, providing new streams of revenue to fund essential services, such as schools. Churchill County welcomes the economic development opportunities and homegrown energy provided by the Dixie Meadows Geothermal Project. After so much economic loss, we’re looking forward to putting a mark in the “win” column – right on time, and right for Churchill County and the state of Nevada.


Sara Beebe is the Director of the Churchill Economic Development Authority which is responsible for attracting, retaining and developing business and industry to benefit Fallon and Churchill County. 


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