ENVIRONMENT

Largest geothermal energy development in the U.S. is here in Utah

Jul 2, 2024, 12:00 PM | Updated: 2:03 pm

Fervo Energy geothermal site under construction near Milford, Utah. (AP Photo/Ellen Schmidt, File)...

Fervo Energy geothermal site under construction near Milford, Utah. (AP Photo/Ellen Schmidt, File)

(AP Photo/Ellen Schmidt, File)

MILFORD, Utah — Something exciting is happening in southwest Utah. The largest new geothermal energy development in the country is underway near Milford, Utah. Some 125 wells are planned to be drilled on over 100,000 acres of land leased from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

What is geothermal energy?

Let’s start with the basics. Geothermal energy uses the earth’s heat to generate electricity. “Under the earth’s surface, the ground gets hotter and hotter,” explained Dusty Monks, Interim Director of the Utah Office of Energy Development. “Utah has a unique geological situation where that heat is a little closer to the surface.”

Monks explained that traditional geothermal energy tapped the reservoirs of steam or hot water close to the earth’s surface. “We’ve been using that for decades,” he said. “It takes that hot water and turns it into power.”

What is happening now in Utah is called enhanced geothermal. “It’s hot, dry rock under our feet that is accessible through drilling,” Monks said. “The technology that was developed through oil and gas that enabled it to grow and be more efficient is translatable into this system.”

Why this is important

Utah’s policy on energy development has long been “all of the above.”

“We’re projecting Utah to double in population in the next 20 years,” Monks explained. “That’s organic growth. Plus, you have energy-intensive technologies that are really taking off and they will be competing with the consumer.”

That kind of growth demands an “all of the above” approach. We need wind and solar and coal and gas and . . . geothermal energy, and we need more of it.

“Anything that will help supply our needs is critically important to the state,” Monks said. “We just need more of the above because there is a high demand for energy.”

Is geothermal energy green?

“You could call geothermal green because it utilizes mother nature’s heat,” Monks replied. “It’s able to capture that heat with minimal emissions.”

Geothermal is superior to wind and solar energy in a couple of ways, according to Monks. The primary one is “it produces power 24 hours a day, and that power is dispatchable. It’s predictable and more compatible with what the consumer needs.”

The huge project going on in Southern Utah is a great step forward. “Any time you’re able to utilize in-state resources to benefit our citizens, it’s exciting,” Monks said.

He described innovation, like enhanced geothermal, as the key to our future. “It will be the bridge between now and where we want to go.”

Related reading: Rocky Mountain Power seeks to increase Utah rates 30% by 2026

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Largest geothermal energy development in the U.S. is here in Utah