On May 24 and 25, the Utah Border Observatory for Geothermal Energy Research (FORGE) The team hosted Alejandro Moreno, Acting Assistant Secretary for the US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, for a two-day visit to the University of Utah and the FORGE Utah site, during which he learned about geothermal energy and ongoing research in Beaver County. UTAH FORGE is a geothermal laboratory located northeast of Milford. The $218 million project was awarded to the U’s Energy & Geosciences Institute after a three-year, five-entry competition, and is the largest research grant ever awarded by the university.
Joining Assistant Secretary Moreno were Lauren Boyd, acting director of DOE’s Office of Geothermal Technology, and several other department officials.
The undersecretary began his visit to the beautiful campus of the U with a first stop at the Warnock Engineering Building (WEB), where Dr. Joseph Moore, the Principal Investigator for Utah FORGE, presented an overview of the project and answered questions from the Assistant Secretary and other attendees. Undersecretary Moreno was eager to learn more about the potential offered by research in enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), the progress made thus far, and its role in advancing the nation’s renewable energy goals.
Following Dr. Moore, U College of Education Professor Mary Burbank provided an update on her team’s collaboration with Utah FORGE to bring standards-based resources to science teachers across the state. A final presentation by Dr. Sara Yeo of the U Department of Communication and Dr. Meaghan McKasy of Utah Valley University highlighted the surveys they are conducting to gauge general understanding of geothermal energy and EGS, as part of his ongoing research on scholarly communication.
From WEB, it was a quick walk to the Frederick A. Sutton Buildinghome of the University of Utah Seismographic Stations (UUSS). Dr. Kristine Pankow, UUSS Associate Director, and several of her students provided an overview of the seismic monitoring of the Utah FORGE site and information on the research derived from the data collected.
The day ended with a tour of the Carolyn and Kem Gardner Commons and its famous geothermal heat pump room, run by John Palo, the facility’s manager. The undersecretary was particularly interested to learn that the building is heated and cooled entirely by geothermal resources drawn from some 150 geothermal wells located beneath a nearby soccer field, saving the university more than $60,000 annually in energy costs.
The next morning, the group traveled to Beaver County in southwestern Utah to visit the Utah FORGE research site, where they were joined by members of the Milford City Council. It was an exciting time to be there as a second deep sidetrack well is currently being drilled. Undersecretary Moreno saw firsthand the complexities associated with the successful drilling of a geothermal well. He also received a bird’s eye view of the area from the 160 foot high platform platform!
The tour concluded with a stop at the Milford City Library, one of three area libraries where residents can monitor seismicity in real time on a computer provided by Utah FORGE. But the highlight of the stop was seeing posters about geothermal energy drawn by local fifth and sixth graders. The undersecretary commented that these students are the future of renewable energy, and that future is bright.