Burning Man Becomes Latest Adversary in Geothermal Feud
one darkest city in america Located about 160 miles north of Reno, the area has very few lights and rarely turns on until a week each summer when fireworks and LEDs light up the sky and mountains.
In tiny Garlach, just outside Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, residents have watched the Burning Man festival grow into a spectacle for nearly 80,000 counterculture hippies over the past 30 years. and tech billionaire, providing an economic lifeline to unincorporated towns. Burning Man and Garlach are now working more closely together, working with conservationists and Native American tribes against powerful foes. omat technologyJapan’s largest geothermal power generation company.
Both Burning Man and Ormat share a vision for a greener future, but they disagree on how to get there.
The festival promotes self-reliance and leaves no trace of a fleeting metropolis, while contributing to a huge carbon footprint. Utilities are betting their future on fighting climate change, but their clean energy facilities are garnering huge profits while threatening local habitats.
This dilemma has complicated similar projects around the world and highlighted the tension between the need to fight climate change and the costs of using clean power. What compromises must be made in striving for a sustainable future?
Experts say the answer comes down to the first rule of real estate: location, location, location.
“The devil is in the details and you can find the exact spot,” said executive director Sharon Netherton. Friends of the Nevada Wilderness. This organization lawsuit To thwart Omat’s project to explore Gerlach’s potential geothermal resources.
Several Omat initiatives have stalled or been forced to relocate amid concerns about potential threats to endangered species. bleached captain sandhill, rare butterflies.population of sage grouse; of Steamboat sobaand most recently, the Dixie Valley Toad.
Opponents of Ormat’s proposed project in Dixie Valley, Nevada, fear that it will dry up surface springs and drive the tiny toads to extinction. “Geothermal energy has a dark and dirty secret: hot springs run dry every time,” says Patrick Donnelly, director of the Center for Biodiversity’s Great Basin.
Yet other plants such as Ormat’s Tsuchiyu Onsen A power plant in Fukushima, Japan, coexists with a nearby hot spring, prompting the Japanese to rethink the potential of geothermal energy to generate electricity using underground fluids.
In a statement, Omat said he recognized the value of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. “Maintaining our resources is not only important to our residents, but to our long-term success,” the company said.
Geothermal resources in Nevada are a controversial topic. Known as the “Golden Child of Geothermal,” the country 24 percent of the country’s geothermal poweris second only to California and produces nearly 10 percent of its electricity from geothermal sources.
Omat has 15 power plants in Nevada that collectively provide 433 megawatts to the state’s grid, enough to power 325,000 homes. Geothermal environments such as hot springs, geysers and steam vents found alongring of fire, the tectonic pathways surrounding the Pacific Ocean are home to ecosystems of wide biodiversity. It can also serve as a sacred site for indigenous peoples and provide spring water for rural towns like Gerlach.
Loss of drinking water is one of the many concerns Gerlach residents have about Omat’s proposed project. The other is ground subsidence, the gradual subsidence of land already in certain parts of the town.
“They’re going to build a factory on top of the aquifer that Garlach sits in. Garlach will sink,” says Burning Man founder Will Rogers, who has lived in Garlach for 10 years with his partner Crimson Rose. said. “It means that the foundation of our home is broken and condemned.”
Omat sought to ensure that “exploration and development of the site would not result in significant environmental or economic loss,” the company said in a statement. “Geothermal development has the potential to bring many benefits to local communities, especially rural towns like Gerlach.”
This aquifer is also home to the Great Boiling Springs, whose rarity has been studied by NASA and others. Microbial Similarities To the state of the earth billions of years ago. Locals fear the plant will mix geothermal fluids with groundwater, irreversibly affecting the springs.
These are “geological uncertainties,” said Roland N. Horn, professor of earth sciences at Stanford University.He said that the old steam plant had dry hot springHowever, most Ormat plants, including the one proposed by Gerlach, binary technology Geothermal water never leaves the surface. Binary power plants produce energy through heat exchangers “without emitting any geothermal fluids or gases,” he said.
Still, binary plants are not foolproof. At the Jersey Valley plant near Omat, the springs dried up after several years of operation. Omat argues there is no evidence the drought was caused by the plant, instead blaming poorly plugged holes in the mining core.
Complicating matters in Gerlach, the plant encroaches on a spring of cultural significance to humanity. Paiute Lake Summit Tribe. Tribal president Randy Roan-Eagle said the Bureau of Land Management failed to consult sufficiently before giving the green light to the project. “Tribes want to be notified well in advance of the process, because often we get to the negotiating table when the project is already done,” she said. .
Critics say the town’s 130 residents could also be exposed to light, noise and pollution while admiring the desert landscape. historic immigration road Contaminated by the presence of a factory 100 feet away.These risks were not considered when the Bureau of Land Management found that “No significant impact“among environmental assessment State of the exploration project.
“It’s like Nimby, but more than that,” said Burning Man co-founder Roger. His two-acre home has 50 trees, a maze, chickens, and an aquaponics system that harvests tilapia to fertilize his greenhouse. . “Don’t mess with my backyard, just say ‘it’s not in my backyard’.”
Local authorities canceled the ordinance last month. permission Omat said in a statement that Omat will “temporarily investigate whether a commercially viable geothermal resource exists” in Gerlach, signaling a likely long-term conflict.
Burning Man organizers say they practice what they preach when it comes to social principles. Sustainability projects, funded by the Burning Man Project, the nonprofit that runs the festival, are sprouting up across the city. The group claims to “own more than half of Gerlach’s commercial real estate” and advances its goal of building a permanent community.
As part of efforts to reduce the festival’s annual carbon footprint of 100,000 tons by 2030, the Burning Man Project has released the following outline: green initiative Rose said these would include more “solar power plants for art and campervans” and “serious discussions” about what art to burn.
But it’s an ambitious goal. About 90% of Burning Man’s emissions are caused by the cars, RVs and planes that transport thousands of participants to the remote desert.
Roger said he hopes a greener power grid will bring more electric vehicles to the festival. Unfortunately, electric vehicles require lithium-ion batteries mined from such plants. fuse battery plans to build outside of Gerlach and will likely receive similar backlash.
He added that there are no plans to scale back the festival to offset its carbon footprint.
“Burning Man is life changing, and if I can wake people up there, it’s worth it to me,” he said. “I don’t want the numbers to go down. I want to raise them.”