In yet another example of inter-departmental collaboration, Utah FORGE, a geothermal energy research project, is delighted to be working closely with Dr. Sara K. Yeo in the University’s Department of Communication, within the College of Humanities.
The research being conducted by Utah FORGE near the town of Milford is focused on enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) technologies. The project is testing the tools and technologies to develop 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.
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.
Public surveys indicate, however, that most people don’t know much about geothermal energy, and it’s seldomly included in discussions about renewable energy sources. To better understand the current level of understanding and familiarity with geothermal energy, Utah FORGE is working with Dr. Yeo on a capstone course which includes surveying individuals about their awareness, knowledge, and opinions of geothermal energy.
“This is a unique opportunity for the students to put into practice the theories we discuss in class,” said Sara K. Yeo, Ph.D. and the professor conducting the capstone. “With the collaboration of the Utah FORGE team, the students developed the questions and determined the scope of the survey.”
“Our collaboration with Dr. Yeo is an exciting aspect of this project. It will provide us with a baseline from which we can judge the progress of our efforts to educate the public about geothermal energy and EGS,” said Joseph Moore, Ph.D., principal investigator of the project.
The 15-20-minute survey includes questions seeking to ascertain the public’s general understanding of geothermal energy and EGS. Responses are being obtained from 1000 individuals in 11 states across the western U.S. The capstone course will be repeated in the Fall Semester of 2021 to allow for a longitudinal data set to be created.
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.