South Reno geothermal plant to go offline, forcing 104 homes to find new hot water source


    Warren Estates Neighborhood in South Reno

    "That was one of the big incentives of this neighborhood was the geothermal."

    The geothermal utility option was a selling point for Faith Osgard and her husband when they bought their house in the Warren Estates community about 10 years ago.

    Some homeowners in South Reno like the utility because it's sustainable. Osgard said, "It's basically a hot water system that goes in a closed loop around the neighborhood so it's totally, totally green."

    But others love the price. Most residents pay a flat rate of $85 a month for heating and hot water.

    More than 100 homes in the Warren Estates neighborhood received a letter from their utility company, Nevada Geothermal this week. It informed residents that a nearby geothermal plant, which brings them heat and hot water, will go offline this summer.

    "It's a total bummer because we're going to have to overhaul our whole house." The Osgards will likely have to pay thousands of dollars to convert their furnaces and hot water heaters to work off of the geothermal system. "The quote we got was 10,000, just for the backup system."

    The utility company only serves 104 homes in Reno, but it's the largest residential geothermal district in all of Nevada.

    "It has become increasingly costly to operate and maintain the system," an attorney representing Nevada Geothermal said, adding that the system is getting old and needs to be rehabilitated.

    Attorney Curt Ledford said, "The system is now 34-years-old and is showing signs of age."

    Repairing the geothermal plant would cost an estimated $4 million, an expense that would likely have to be passed on to the customers.

    Ledford said, "We came up with about $350 per month per customer for 20 years, and that assumes that no customers leave the system."

    Because Nevada Geothermal isn't the only utility provider in the area, the attorney said, "we know that they have more economical options for heat source than that."

    The cost of operating the plant has made Nevada Geothermal decide to close up shop, but they said they want to give their customers plenty of notice. Ledford said, "What we did not want to do was discontinue service in the dead of winter."

    Now, residents are preparing to be off the geothermal system by the end of July, but some are still hoping they won't have to give up their green energy.

    Faith Osgard said, "We're just wondering if there's grant money or if NV Energy can come to the rescue-- I don't know, somebody with $4 million."

    Ledford said the utility company plans to file the paperwork to take the geothermal plant offline this week, but the Public Utilities Commission must approve the utility company's decision to discontinue service.

    Nevada Geothermal is holding a community information session at the South Valleys Library on March 8 at 6 p.m.

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