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October 25, 2012
By Stephany Kirby
James Faulds, director of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology at the University of Nevada, Reno, bested more than 100 other scientists from around the country and received top honors from the Department of Energy (DOE) for his work on geothermal energy technology.
He earned the 2012 Peer Review Excellence award with his project, "Characterizing Structural Controls of EGS and Conventional Geothermal Reservoirs."
Margaret Schaus, operations lead for the DOE's Geothermal Technologies Program, said Faulds received perfect scores across all categories.
Each year the DOE invests millions of dollars with individuals in the industry, academia and national government labs for work on geothermal energy technology. The energy department's 2012 Geothermal Technologies Office Peer Review competition showcases these projects. They presented the award to Faulds at the Geothermal Resources Council's annual meeting and conference in Reno earlier this month.
"The projects had to be about geothermal energy but that really includes a wide spectrum of ideas," Faulds said. "There is the theoretical modeling side, the engineering side and the geothermal engineering side, which is what I do."
Faulds, who is also the Nevada State Geologist based in the University's Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering, is halfway through work on the $1 million DOE project to characterize geothermal potential at nearly 500 sites throughout the Great Basin, for which he received the peer review award.
Faulds said better characterization of known geothermal systems is critical for new discoveries, targeting drilling sites and development.
"We want to help the industry achieve acceptable levels of site-selection risk ahead of expensive drilling," he said. "This study costs only $1 million, but it could cost a company several million dollars for drilling at a single prospect in the hopes that they hit a good, hot well. Our research will provide the baseline studies that are absolutely needed if Nevada is going to become the Saudi Arabia of geothermal."
For the Peer Review Award, the projects are reviewed by a panel of experts in geothermal technology and experts from national labs, academia, federal agencies and private industries who look at several different aspects of the project. They are measured by four criteria: the impact of the research; the scientific or technical approach that the project is taking; accomplishments and progress; and project management and coordination. Participants then receive a score and feedback in order to determine which project has used the money from the Department in the best possible way.
Faulds, along with the graduate students who assisted with the project, took home a recognition plaque made of recycled green glass. The award brought national and international recognition and accolades to the University of Nevada, Reno.
Stephany Kirby is a student writer for University Media Relations.