Burning Man Becomes Latest Adversary in Geothermal Feud

The dilemma has complicated similar projects worldwide, underscoring the tension between the need to combat climate change and the cost of doing so using clean power. In the effort for a sustainable future, what compromises must be made?

Experts say the answer comes down to the No. 1 rule in real estate: location, location, location.

“Devil’s in the details with the exact spot,” said Shaaron Netherton, the executive director of Friends of Nevada Wilderness. The organization has joined in a lawsuit to block Ormat’s project, which would explore potential geothermal resources in Gerlach.

Several Ormat initiatives have stalled or been forced to relocate amid concerns about potential threats to endangered species like the bleached sandhill skipper, a rare butterfly; populations of sage-grouse; the steamboat buckwheat; and, most recently, the Dixie Valley toad.

Opponents of Ormat’s project plans in Dixie Valley, Nev., fear it would drain the surface springs and push the tiny toad toward extinction. “Geothermal energy has a dark, dirty little secret: They dry up hot springs every time,” said Patrick Donnelly, the Great Basin director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

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