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U.S. Secretary of Energy visits U, tours geothermal facility

Secretary Jennifer Granholm announced a $74 million funding opportunity to continue developing technologies currently being studied in the Utah FORGE project.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm visited the University of Utah as part of a post-State of the Union tour to highlight President Joe Biden's energy and climate initiatives, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Joe Moore, Utah FORGE principal investigator, presents to an audience including (left to right, opposite Moore) Erin Rothwell, interim vice president for research, Mitzi Montoya, senior vice president for academic affairs, Jennifer Granholm, U.S. Secretary of Energy, and Deidre Henderson, lieutenant governor of the State of Utah.

Granholm and Utah Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson attended a briefing on the DOE-funded Utah FORGE project, which is developing enhanced geothermal system technology at an experimental site near Milford, Utah. Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Mitzi Montoya and Interim Vice President for Research Erin Rothwell welcomed Granholm to the U.

"We're very excited to be watching the success of [Utah] FORGE," Montoya said. "We are very committed to continuing to support and invest in this project because we know its importance as we continue to develop sources of renewable energy for the country."

Joseph Moore, principal investigator of Utah FORGE, explained how the project aims to develop technology that can tap into the vast resource of geothermal energy without needing a hot spring. The enhanced geothermal systems under development at FORGE can make geothermal energy viable in many more places, greatly expanding its capacity and impact.

Officials from the Utah Office of Energy Development, the University of Utah, and the Energy & Geoscience Institute, which manages the Utah FORGE research, as well as several students working on the project, also attended the briefing.

Granholm, Henderson and Moore then toured the geothermal pump room at Carolyn and Kem Gardner Commons with John Palo, district facility manager. The building is entirely heated and cooled by some 150 geothermal wells located under a nearby soccer field. The system saves the University over $60,000 annually in energy costs.

A man and two women stand in front of a red backdrop. The woman in front, in a purple jacket, is giving two thumbs up. The woman in the back right, in a blue jacket, and the man in the back left, in a gray jacket, are looking on.

PHOTO CREDIT: Eric Larson, FlashPoint SLC

(Left to right) Moore, Granholm and Henderson following a press conference at the University of Utah.

Following the tour, Granholm held a press conference at the Hinckley Institute of Politics, announcing up to $74 million for new pilot projects to advance enhanced geothermal systems. Details about the funding opportunity are available here.

"We are excited about a new enhanced geothermal economy," Granholm said, "because you're gonna need pipe fitters, you're gonna need welders, you're gonna need truckers, you're gonna need construction workers. We're gonna need people who know their way around drilling equipment, especially oil and gas workers who already have the skills that geothermal demands. And if we do this right, we will have another affordable, powerful, clean, dispatchable, baseload source of power for Utah and for the rest of the nation."

After her stop in Utah, Granholm continued her tour with stops in Reno, NV and Boston, MA.

John Palo (left), U facilities district manager, describes the Gardner Commons geothermal heating and cooling system to Moore, Granholm and Henderson.