University research key to realizing Nevada's geothermal potential

Mar 7, 2016

University of Nevada, Reno Provost Kevin Carman (left) and James Faulds, research professor and director of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology and State Geologist
Credit KUNR

Nevada is known as the Silver State, but as a geological treasure, that doesn't begin to capture Nevada's richness that ranges from its vast untapped geothermal energy to leading in gold and lithium production.

Current geological research in the state, the future outlook for geothermal energy, and Nevada's worldwide impact were among the subjects of the University Spotlight on KUNR's Beyond the Headlines. Guests included Jim Faulds, research professor and director of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology and State Geologist, with University of Nevada, Reno Provost Kevin Carman (air date: 3-4-16; interviewed by David Stipech).

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Dr. Faulds’ work is central to the state of Nevada’s efforts to harness geothermal energy sources. In particular, his research is playing a key role in a project that holds the potential to unlock massive new resources of power generated from geothermal energy. As director of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, Dr. Faulds leads statewide outreach efforts in the state’s understanding of tectonics and structural geology of the Great Basin. An accomplished mapper, Dr. Faulds has integrated detailed geologic mapping into nearly all of his work, which has had direct applications to earthquake hazards, industrial minerals, metallic ore deposits and geothermal resources. His studies through the University have been widely published and his geothermal research has helped innovate the field by developing more sophisticated and complex exploration strategies that can be used by the geothermal industry for geothermal systems.

The Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, a public service department of the University’s College of Science, provides analysis of Nevada geology to better understand the resources and hazards of the area. Dr. Faulds’ research is also providing geologic modeling for an innovative U.S. Department of Energy initiative, called FORGE. These Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy sites, one of which is located near Fallon – hold the potential to unlock massive new resources of power generated from geothermal sources. The FORGE sites provide the geothermal community with a field laboratory where the science and engineering needed for widespread commercialization of EGS, or Enhanced Geothermal Systems, can be developed and refined. Ultimately, this work will lead to making geothermal a much more commercially viable energy source for the state.

Dr. Faulds bested more than 100 other scientists from around the country and received top honors from the Department of Energy for his work on geothermal energy technology, earning the 2012 Peer Review Excellence award with his project, “Characterizing Structural Controls of EGS and Conventional Geothermal Reservoirs.” He received perfect scores across all categories.

Dr. Faulds was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America for his work on tectonics and structural geology. He first came to love geology as a child watching ice on lakes break up during springtime and collide with one another. He turned his interest toward the Earth’s crust and began studying geology. He began teaching at the University for the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology in 1997 and became the director in 2012.