Nome, Alaska: First US City to Run on Geothermal

The city of Nome, Alaska could be the first in the US to be powered by geothermal – right now, exploration holes are being drilled deep into the ground.

With about 3600 residents, the city rests on the southern Seward Peninsula coast on Norton Sound of the Bering Sea.

Geothermal would be delivered to the city from Pilgrim Hot Springs, 60 miles away. After several years of research, exploratory drilling will confirm the amount of hot water is sufficient to supply the city’s power. If so, a production facility will be built in Nome along with transmission lines from the hot springs. 

Estimates are that 2-4 megawatts of electricity are available, enough to supply most of the city’s needs. The goal is for Nome to begin receiving geothermal electricity by the end of next year. The hot springs, listed on the Register of Historic Places, would also have the potential for greenhouses and fish hatcheries in addition to tourism.

The huge drilling tube:

Geothermal Nome Alaska

The project started with a grant from the Department of Energy and Alaska Energy Authority’s Renewable Energy Fund. Research partners are the US Geological Survey, the Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) based at University of Alaska/ Fairbanks, Unataaq – a consortium of seven local Native corporations – and Potelco, a private developer. 

‘Our Board and Community members have been watching ACEP’s work with interest, since the stable pricing and diversity of developing geothermal power could have significant economic benefit to our region,’ says Barb Nickels, executive director of Nome Chamber of Commerce, which made a donation to support the project. 

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Comments on “Nome, Alaska: First US City to Run on Geothermal”

  1. GeothermalExpert

    “Geothermal” is generally used as an adjective, such as “geothermal energy” or “geothermal power.” My first action was to ask “geothermal what?”

    Also, there are dozens of existing geothermal power plants in the US, and many are more than large enough to power entire cities much larger than Nome. This story makes little sense. Perhaps it was actually referring to installing district heating in Nome using geothermal energy?

  2. AK Geologist

    I’ve worked on many geothermal projects, both in Alaska and in California at the Geysers, the world’s largest producer of Geothermal Energy. While the project is relatively small compared to larger projects in the Mid-West and the West Coast, this project is significant in that it has the potential to produce power from significantly lower temperatures than typically thought economic for power production. They are attempting to produce 2-5 MW of power from 190-210 degree water. Additionally, because many rural villages throughout Alaska are isolated from utilities by hundreds of miles, they typically rely on diesel powered micro-grids for electricity, with power costing in excess of $0.45/kWh. If successful, this project will further low-temperature geothermal power production research, as well as prove to the state and the government that targeting geothermal signatures like this are not only likely to be successful, but also economic in the long run.

  3. g3herman

    Chena Hot Springs, near Fairbanks, has it’s own 400kW generating plant. It’s physically notso large. 5 of these together could, theoretically, generate 2 MW. This should be more commonplace in regions with an abundance of geothermal energy.


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