Empire, San Emidio Desert Geothermal Field

The San Emidio Desert is an area of major displacement of a fault southwest of Gerlach, Nevada. Geothermal potential in the San Emidio Desert was unknown until the late 1960s, when exploration drilling for sulfur along the east side of the desert encountered hot water. An approximately 4.4 km long zone, presumably the surface expression of a fault, exhibited hydrothermal alteration and the presence of mercury and sulfur, but no surface springs were present. Water in shallow drill hole–1 m below ground surface–had a temperature of 53C. Thus, the San Emidio geothermal resource was concealed until discovered by drilling for sulfur.

The Empire Energy binary plant currently shares the geothermal resource with an onion and garlic dehydration plant to the north. The U.S. Department of Energy has provided funds–$1.6 million over four years–to help construct a small-scale geothermal power plant adjacent to the dehydration facility.

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