## ## What is the plume of smoke in South Reno
The complex is owned by Ormat Technologies, a geothermal energy developer with a handful of complexes around Northern Nevada. Emerson Marcus/RGJ
Question: Looking to the South on some cold mornings we will see a large steam plume rising. In fact, it was one of my first Ask the RGJ columns.
But last week another guy asked me about a “volcano like smoke cloud” near Carson. It’s in south Reno and not a volcano smoke cloud.
The plume is steam from the Steamboat geothermal complex just south of Reno, which taps into the Earth’s crust. The complex is owned by Ormat Technologies, a geothermal energy developer with a handful of complexes around Northern Nevada.
The complex collects geothermal fluid and steam directed to power plants, which create electrical energy, Ormat spokeswoman Heidi Bethel said.
“A water cooling tower is used to turn the steam back into a liquid to be reused,” she said. “This process creates steam forming the plume.”
The visibility and size of the plume depends on atmospheric conditions, such as cold weather or high humidity, she said. So, with the recent temperatures, we gotten this question more recently lately.
Nevada is the second largest geothermal producing state behind only California. The University of Nevada, Reno snagged the first ever National Geothermal Academy program in the country in 2011 and several projects are in the works throughout Nevada, Bethel said.
Steamboat is one of five Ormat owned complexes in Northern Nevada, and it is the largest Ormat complex in the state.
TheGeothermal Energy Associationalso has an educational site with basic information on geothermal energy.