Inter-departmental cooperation has always been a hallmark of success for the University of Utah. The latest example of this cooperation is found in two seemingly disparate groups: Utah FORGE, a geothermal energy research project, and the College of Education.

Harnessing the potential of geothermal energy could provide a great boost to the nation’s energy portfolio. Indeed, scientists suggest if we can tap just 2% of the energy found between 2 and 6 miles below the Earth’s surface, we would have more than 2000 times the energy used in the U.S. every year. It is literally the heat beneath our feet. However, most people don’t know much about geothermal energy, and it’s rarely included in discussions about renewable energy sources.

Utah FORGE and the College of Education are working to change that. Building on the research Utah FORGE is conducting near Milford, in southwestern Utah, the College of Education is creating lesson plans which include geothermal energy as part of topic discussions around renewable energy.

“This is a unique opportunity for the Urban Institute for Teacher Education (UITE) in the College of Education,” said Mary D. Burbank, Assistant Dean and Director. “We consistently strive to advance the material taught in schools both in Utah and around the country. This collaboration with Utah FORGE allows us to introduce important new subject matter to students of all ages.”

Ph.D. candidate Tamara Young from the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Assistant Professor Lauren Barth-Cohen from the Department of Educational Psychology are working on the lesson plans. These plans are designed to incorporate the latest Utah science with engineering education (SEEd) standards and include hands-on and virtual heat conduction experiments, data interpretation segments, and group discussion activities. The plans are intended for K-12 students as part of the overall science curriculum.

“We are so excited to be collaborating with our colleagues at the College of Education. Their long record of innovation is an amazing resource for us to help build overall understanding about Utah FORGE and geothermal energy in general,” said Joseph Moore, Ph.D., Principal Investigator of the project.

The goal of Utah FORGE’s research is to test tools and technologies for the creation of a geothermal resource where none exists naturally. If successful, these methods can be applied virtually anywhere in the world, providing a clean, inexhaustible energy source.

The Utah FORGE project is being managed by the Energy & Geoscience Institute at the University of Utah. Funding for the project is being provided by the US Department of Energy. It is one of the largest non-medical grants the University of Utah has ever received.

The University of Utah is no stranger to geothermal energy – it is purchasing 20 megawatts of geothermal electricity annually from Cyrq Energy, a geothermal developer actively working in Utah and Nevada.  Additionally, the Gardner Commons Building is entirely powered by that geothermal energy located just beneath our feet. With nearly half of its energy needs being met by renewable sources, the University of Utah is ranked eighth in the Green Power Partnership Top 30 College & University rankings.

December 3, 2020