Sierra Pacific, Ormat help University create renewable energy program

5/9/2007 7:00:00 AM

In a joint announcement May 9 at the Redfield campus, Sierra Pacific Resources Chairman and CEO Walter Higgins said the company has donated $500,000 to create an industry-education partnership with the University. The funds will enable Nevada to develop an undergraduate program in sustainable engineering, which will start as an interdisciplinary minor program at the University in the fall of 2007.

"Sierra Pacific has a long tradition of working with the University's College of Engineering and the geothermal industry here in northern Nevada," Higgins said. "This unique industry-education partnership will not only further development of the all-important renewables field, but should help serve the energy needs of Nevada far into the future."

The partnership is expected to create a program that is an international leader in geothermal and other renewable energy research, education and outreach. The University's first step is to hire faculty to lead the program beginning this fall.

An additional investment of $200,000 was pledged by Daniel Schochet, vice president of Ormat Nevada, Incorporated—a company with more than four decades of experience in the development of state-of-the-art, environmentally sound power solutions.

This investment will be applied to the Renewable Energy Center at the Redfield Campus. This center will be a research, education and community outreach laboratory, and will include geothermal development, use of other renewable energy to produce hydrogen, the advancement of new power cycles for more efficient production of electrical power and the production of biodiesel fuel from waste and algae.

"This is literally a field laboratory, and with this educational base for geothermal and renewable energy, we have the proverbial alignment of the stars here for students and the entire community," Schochet said.

University President Milt Glick underscored that the announcements do not represent "the culmination of our efforts. This is just the beginning, and we need this kind of investment and commitment from many partners to make sure Nevada is on the cutting edge of renewable energy.

"We're grateful to Sierra Pacific and Ormat for helping to start this program. Now we have to engage the entire business community in expanding this program into a multidisciplinary endeavor. We look forward to expanding this focus on renewable energy beyond engineering and science into our other schools and also engaging our colleagues in the Nevada System of Higher Education."

Jeane Jones, a trustee for the Redfield Foundation, echoed Glick's point.

"This is only a first step," she emphasized. "We want to make this program an international model where people can come and learn how to support their energy needs."

Governor Jim Gibbons was unable to be at the announcement, but sent a taped message of congratulations to all involved. Nevada first lady Dawn Gibbons attended, as did Dr. Hatice Gecol, an associate chemical engineering professor at the University and the Governor's science and energy advisor.

Dr. Glick, "ladies and gentlemen and distinguished guests. On behalf of my Ormat, its chairman Lucien Bronicki and our entire staff, I want to tell you that we are privileged to be a participant in the formation of the University of Nevada, Reno – Redfield Renewable Energy Center.

Ormat, which was established in 1965 as an alternative energy technology company, moved from its New England offices to Nevada in 1984, with a staff of 8 technical professionals, to establish our geothermal development center. At that time we were welcomed by both the Governor of Nevada and Sierra Pacific Power Company.

Today, two decades later, Ormat Technologies, Inc. has some 800 employee's world wide with some 80 in Nevada. We are listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol ORA, and Ormat is considered as one of the leading geothermal developers and operators in the USA.

Our success as a company was due to a confluence of conditions including:

  • The great business climate of the State of Nevada.
  • The excellent relationship with Sierra Pacific Power Resources.
  • The support of local and state community.
  • The fine people that Ormat has been able to attract as its employees.
  • And the cultural, social and educational facilities, especially the University of Nevada, Reno.

From its formation in 1965 through today Ormat as sought to express its appreciation to the community by providing the company's support in the areas where our unique capabilities can be focused.

When Ormat was formed as a start up company with limited funding, this took the form of a community based vocation high school on the Ormat plant campus, with 20 students. Today this school has over 100 students with many of its graduates employed by Ormat as engineers, managers and technicians.

Currently the geothermal industry in the U.S. has a capacity of nearly 3,000 mw, with power plants operating in 5 states, including Nevada, and with approximately 5,000 people employed in this industry.

The green reliable continuous power provided by geothermal technology has made these forms of renewable energy the first choice of utilities and consumers across the western United States.

Based on conservative estimate the western Governors Association expects the geothermal energy base over the next decade to grow to 12 states with a five fold increase to 15,000 MW and a concomitant increase in well paying technical jobs. Nevada is expected to provide 20% of this increased capacity.

The other renewable technologies such as wind and solar are expected to experience comparable growth. We in the renewable industry in Nevada expect the UNR renewable energy center to become the educational base for the renewable and geothermal technical professionals.

The Redfield Campus has the unique distinction of being located adjacent to one of the most important geothermal projects in Nevada. The Ormat Steamboat Geothermal Complex, located within the Reno city limits, is now producing approximately 70 mw and is expected to grow to some 90 mw by 2008. This power is sufficient for over 110,000 homes.

The University of Nevada, Reno and Truckee Meadows Community College students who participate in the unique renewable and geothermal educational programs will in essence have the Steamboat Geothermal Complex as a field laboratory.

In addition we at Ormat are pleased to announce our support for a University of Nevada Public Renewable Energy Visitor's Center at the Redfield Campus which may be used by the region's educational system.

In summary, the partnership of the University of Nevada, Sierra Pacific Resources and Ormat is like the proverbial alignment of the stars which predicts a bright future for young people who will start their clean energy careers at the renewable energy center.

Thank you Cindy and Dr. Glick.

And thank you to all of you who have taken time from your busy schedules to join us today for this important occasion. Today marks a major milestone for the future of clean, renewable energy in Nevada.

Today is a dream long in the making.

It is fitting that we should be here at Steamboat, not far from the very spot where the first commercially viable geothermal generator in Nevada produced its first kilowatt of electricity.

Sierra Pacific's legacy and involvement with geothermal energy spans three decades. The company signed its first contracts for geothermal power in 1983. One of those was a pilot project that allowed the company to share operational information about this new technology and was an educational process for both the developers and the company.

The pilot project helped us learn and make decisions about how geothermal power would fit into needs of future generation in our growing state. I'm happy to say we're still receiving electricity from that plant today.

Using geothermal energy as a resource to generate electricity has evolved substantially since those early days. Over the past 20 years Sierra Pacific has contracted for electricity from 15 different geothermal projects – all of which, in some form or another, are still operating today. In 2006, 14% of all Sierra Pacific Power electric sales were generated from geothermal energy. In Nevada we're #2 in the nation for electricity production from geothermal resources

The legacy of that early geothermal pilot project was just the first in many steps that have led us to this announcement today. Once again it is a partnership, but this time it has an even greater educational goal.

Also on the renewable energy front, this summer, the SolarOne project in the desert south of Las Vegas is expected to come on line. This 64 megawatt, thermal solar generating plant is the largest solar project to be constructed in the U.S. during the past 15 years. It will be one of the largest solar plants in the world. All of the electricity produced there is expected to be utilized by Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific customers.

When the SolarOne project is completed, along with another 10-megawatt photovoltaic power plant proposed near Las Vegas, Nevada will be the #1 state in the nation for solar energy on a per capita basis. In Nevada, we can be proud of the advances we have made to supply renewable energy to our growing state.

Sierra Pacific has a long legacy of working with both the College of Engineering and the geothermal industry. We're here today to announce a unique industry-education partnership that will not only further development of the all-important renewables field, but should help serve the energy needs of Nevada far into the future.

On behalf of Sierra Pacific Resources and our two utilities, Sierra Pacific Power Company and Nevada Power Company, we are pleased to announce the donation of $500,000 to the University of Nevada, Reno.

This donation will create an industry-education partnership that will enable the College of Engineering to develop an undergraduate program in renewable engineering. As one of the first of its kind in the nation, this renewable energy program will start as an interdisciplinary minor program to be offered through the College of Engineering, beginning in the fall semester of this year.

The Redfield Campus will be the site of the new Renewable Energy Laboratories for this program. New staff will lead this initiative and we expect the Redfield Campus will be modified to include a fully operational geothermal lab. Sierra Pacific is working with our partners at Ormat Technologies, the producers who have active geothermal generating plants just steps away from this lab. Soon, the next generation of engineers will be studying and working at this campus to further refine energy resources vital to our growing state.

This is a truly unique partnership. In conjunction with the University College of Engineering, Ormat Technologies and the Redfield Foundation, we expect to create a program that's an international leader in geothermal and other renewable energy sources.

I'd like to recognize one of our employees, Travis Johnson, our Manager of Substation Construction and Maintenance (a graduate of the College of Engineering) and Professor Medi Etezad-Amoli, from the College of Engineering for being a significant part of the inspiration and enthusiasm that encouraged Sierra Pacific's involvement.

Sierra Pacific has a long history of involvement with the College of Engineering. Our student engineering internships date back to the 1960s. Our own President of Sierra Pacific Power Company, Jeff Ceccarelli – who spear-headed this project for the company – began his career as a student engineer with the company, while attending the university.

Today, we are proud to continue that relationship with the University and the School of Engineering, as we work together to advance the development of clean, reliable and renewable energy resources for future generations.

Thanks again to all of you for your support."


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