Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology
Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering
Lisa Shevenell, Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology hydrologist and Director of the Great Basin Center for Geothermal Energy, continues to assist in the development of geothermal energy as a renewable resource in Nevada in collaboration with industry. Additionally, the geothermal group is establishing curriculum and expanding educational resources by leading an effort to establish a national geothermal training institute at the Redfield campus in collaboration with other universities with long-standing commitments to geothermal research, education, and outreach.
Though her research specialty is in hydrogeology, an interest in geothermal energy caught hold of Shevenell early on. While pursuing a bachelor’s degree at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Shevenell went on a summer internship at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. After she procured her bachelor’s degree, the laboratory again invited her to work on a collaborative geothermal exploration geothermal project in Central America with United States Geological Survey and the national geothermal company in Honduras.
“I thought it was pretty fun to go hiking around in the mountains and sampling hot springs and soaking in them,” she said.
After three years at Los Alamos, Shevenell went on to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 1993, she returned to Nevada from Oak Ridge National Laboratory to work at the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology in a research faculty position.
Alongside conducting research and exploration for geothermal systems in the Great Basin area, Shevenell is responsible for finding funding opportunities for the Geothermal group’s ongoing and future research projects. Shevenell also develops curriculum related to geothermal energy and works closely with several geothermal energy companies, including Ormat, Magma Energy, Vulcan Power, Nevada Geothermal and Caldera, a newly founded company started by a fellow faculty member.
“We work with different companies at different levels,” she said. “We’ve had some formal and informal arrangements with Ormat. We just wrote some proposals in collaboration with Magma Energy to the Department of Energy. We’ve also recently some proposals in collaboration with Vulcan Power.”
National educational consortium for geothermal energy
In keeping with the development of education and training in geothermal energy, Shevenell and her colleagues are organizing an annual national educational consortium for geothermal energy, which is slated to be held for the first time next summer at the Redfield campus. Shevenell said the consortium will include collaboration with students and faculty from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell University, Stanford University, the Oregon Institute of Technology, the University of Utah and possibly others as the program expands.
“These are all leading universities in geothermal research and education over the past 20 years,” she said. “But no one University has a sufficient critical mass to have degree programs (in geothermal). So we’re starting, essentially, the first geothermal training program in this country.”
Shevenell is also collaborating with industry to tailor specific training modules that will coincide with the shortage of experts on specific subjects currently working in the field.
“One of the aspects of what we want to do with this training program is to make it interdisciplinary so that students get an understanding of the entire industry,” Shevenell said. “Not having a program, there aren’t any students that are coming out with specific expertise in geothermal. So we’re going to design the program in close collaboration with the industry to make sure we’re covering things that they need.”
Education and training is an important aspect of geothermal for Shevenell. Yet, since the Geothermal group’s inception in 2000 the main driving force for the research, industry collaboration and educational outreach has been making geothermal energy a reliable, sustainable and economically competitive energy resource in Nevada.
“Nevada has an abundance of geothermal systems because of a particular geologic style,” she said. “The Great Basin has basins and ranges because the crust is pulling apart. “It makes the ground thinner so that the distance you have to go here to get to hot temperatures is less than elsewhere. It also pulls apart fractures so it allows water to flow. We could certainly produce a lot larger percentage of our power cleanly through geothermal within the state than we do currently.”