World's First Solar-Geothermal Hybrid Plant Opens in the Nevada Desert

Tela Chhe/CC BY 2.0

Nevada is home to some enormous solar power facilities and is a focal point of the expansion of geothermal energy production, so it makes sense that someone would pick the state to combine the two in one beast of a clean energy production center. That someone is Enel Green Power (EGP), which in May opened the world's first solar-geothermal hybrid energy power plant in northwestern Nevada.

EGP, a green arm of the Italian Enel Group, developed a geothermal plant at the Stillwater site in Churchill County, 60 miles east of Reno, in 2009, reports Engadget. The process drills wells into the ground to capture heat from steam and hot water rising from the Earth's molten core, using it to drive turbines and generate electricity.

Once the 33 megawatt plant was set up, it was only natural to consider the addition of solar panels, given its location in the Nevada desert. So Enel installed 89,000 panels, adding 26 more megawatts of energy to its peak capacity.

The combination of the two power sources limits the weaknesses of each, notes Engadget. Solar power is only generated during sunny days, while geothermal energy doesn't depend on the weather or time. It does, however, require a lot of up front investment and is a riskier proposition, so having a solar component is a way of hedging your bet.

Considering how much sense this operation makes, I'll be surprised if Enel and its competitors don't open more facilities like it in the near future.

Tags: Geothermal Power | Nevada | Solar Power