Geothermal Chosen Over Solar In Nevada Desert

You think the Nevada desert, you think solar power. But that’s not the case at Pahrump Valley High School, about 50 miles west of Las Vegas. The school, scheduled to open in 2012, is being built with a geothermal heat pump (GHP). Contractor EnLink Geoenergy Services said the system will provide heating and cooling at a lower cost than just sucking electricity from the grid – and, of course, it’s a lot cleaner.

Energy efficiency is a big consideration for the school construction, according to the Nye County School District, but solar isn’t listed as one of the technologies being employed. “The bottom line is GHP saves us money because it is the most efficient way to heat and cool our buildings, and it also helps us protect the environment at the same time, which is more important than ever,” said the school district’s Dave Wonderly.

Pahrump Valley High School, geothermal heat pump

image via Nye County School District

A geothermal heating and cooling system takes advantage of stable underground temperatures as surface temperatures rise and fall seasonally. In the winter, the pump extracts heat from the ground to warm buildings, and in the summer it transfers heat back into the ground for cooling.

EnLink Geoenergy Services said it will drill 300 geothermal wells to a depth of 390 feet each for the Pahrump Valley High School project. “The system will contain 2 underground vaults that serve as central connection points for the smaller lines coming from the geothermal borefield, before feeding into the school building,” the company said. “In addition, the district is planning for the future and has sized the GHP system so that it can service two additional buildings when the school expands.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.


  • Reply February 13, 2011


    It is about time that I am beginning to see geothermal hvac used in larger abundance. My in-laws have had a geothermal hvac system for years, no maintenance needed and lower bills than any of their neighbors. For years they have been talking about the many benefits of geo hvac, but only recently have I seen evidence that the rest of the country is catching on. My father-in-law gave us a book for Christmas that was written by a man named Jay Egg. The title “Geothermal HVAC”, kind of sums up the topic, but it did more than just teach us about geothermal. The book made us believers in geo hvac technology, now we are ready to see the application up in our area as well!

  • Reply February 13, 2011


    I got one 2 years ago. I can not believe how much it has saved me.
    The last year I used propane and electric to heat and cool my
    home it cost me $4200. Last year with the heat pump t cost me
    $1500. It will go down even more. I used the heat pump rebate to
    buy other energy efficent appliences.

    Take Care

  • Reply March 22, 2011


    Geothermal over solar in Nevada is a huge surprise. It is such a great endorsement for geothermal, that hopefully will increase awareness.

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