Geothermal Capital of the West: Reno in the Year 2121
The Ecotopia 2121 Project details the futures of 100 cities across the globe as though they've somehow overcome all the grave environmental challenges our age and grown to become super Green and super-ecofriendly. This month, we highlight the future of Reno, Nevada.
Reno, Nevada, has a well-known history regarding two social matters, gambling and splitting. The gambling revolves around slot machines, dice, and playing cards, while the splitting revolves around the legal act of divorce between the partners in a marriage. In both these activities, Reno was way ahead of its time compared to the rest of the United States. By the 1930s, it had become the gambling and divorce capital of the country.
In Reno 2121, the themes of gambling and splitting are combined in a program to develop an inexhaustible energy source located nearby: geothermal energy. Geothermal energy is a renewable energy produced by transferring heat from hot subterranean rocks up through geological splits in the ground to steam-driven power plants on the surface. If discovered and efficiently tapped, the heat from these geological splits could provide perhaps a quarter of the American West with all the heat and energy it might need forever into the future, with not so much as a whiff of hydrocarbon emitted or radiation leaked.
Reno, Nevada, in 2121AD
However, geothermal prospecting is a somewhat blind endeavor. There is a lot of risk and uncertainty regarding where exactly geothermal vents are hidden. In this respect, geothermal energy is even more uncertain than oil or gas, which at least may exhibit surface features, such as oozing crude, that might point toward an opportune prospecting area.
In twenty-second-century Reno, high-rolling gamblers are enticed to play a new game: sink the geothermal drill. Each shot at the game costs about $10 million and involves picking a spot somewhere in the outskirts of Reno and sinking an exploratory drill. One of the reasons for the high price of a bet is that geothermal activity is associated with granitic rock, and drilling through granite is a very tough and drawn-out affair. However, high rollers who strike it lucky will be given a stake in an endless resource and can also be happy in the knowledge that they helped Reno 2121 become the Geothermal Capital of the West.