Did you know…that some species incubate their eggs using geothermal heat?

Did you know that some species incubate their eggs using geothermal heat?

Megapodes represent a family of birds that are also known as incubator birds. They are found across Australasia, and they are known for their unique strategies to keep their eggs warm and safe. Depending on the local environment, incubating strategies range from building a massive nest with stacks of decaying vegetation to laying eggs in warm ground heated by the sun. Certain species of megapode occurring on volcanic islands in the Bismarck archipelago, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, and Micronesia bury and incubate their eggs in geothermally heated ground. Megapodes originated in Australia, and as they evolved, they spread northward and eastward to tropical islands of the southwest Pacific. The use of thermal ground by just a few species of Megapode to incubate eggs appears to be simply a matter of opportunity.

The incubation of eggs in thermal ground, however, is not just for the birds. Their ancient ancestors, dinosaurs, may have been similarly opportunistic. The recently discovered Sangasta nesting site in northwest Argentina provides definitive evidence that neosaupods used geothermally heated ground to incubate their eggs. Much like humans, some animals have used geothermal heat when and where it is easily available.



Grellet-Tinner, G. and Fiorelli, L.E., 2010, A new Argentinian nesting site showing neosauropod dinosaur reproduction in a Cretaceous hydrothermal environment: Nature Communications, 1:32, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1031

Harris, R.B., Birks, S.M. and Leaché, A.D., 2014, Incubator birds: biogeographical origins and evolution of underground nesting megapodes (Galliformes: Megapodiidae): Journal of Biogeography, v. 41, p. 2045-2056.



Did you know… that there are animals that use natural thermal heat in the form of hot springs and warm ground?

Geothermal energy has great benefits for people, but did you know that there are animals that use natural thermal heat in the form of hot springs and warm ground?

Macaques, better known as snow monkeys, are found throughout the main Japanese Island of Honshu, and they are famous for soaking in local volcanic hot springs. Their bathing habit is a recent phenomenon that was first observed at Korakukan Onsen, a local guest house, in 1962. Snow monkeys seem to have adapted this habit from observing humans in the hot springs. Since then, this behavior has been passed onto rest of their troops, and it has now become a part of their daily routine. Snow monkeys bathe in hot springs to preserve body heat to survive the cold and rigid winters, but recent studies have proven they also do this as a form of stress relief.



Matsuzawa, T., 2918, Hot-spring bathing wild monkeys in Shiga-Heights: origin and propagation of a cultural behavior: Primates, v. 59, p. 209-213.

Takeshita, R.S.C., Bercovitch, F.B., Kinoshita, K. and Huffman, M.A., 2018, Beneficial effect of hot spring bathing on stress levels in Japanese macaques: Primates, v. 59, p. 215-225.




Did you know… that the direct use of geothermal energy can be used to raise alligators? 

Did you know that the direct use of geothermal energy can be used to raise alligators?

The direct use of geothermal energy can apply to almost any activity that requires heating (and cooling) for industrial, residential and agricultural purposes. The heat is transferred by hot ground water in the temperature range of 20-120°C (70-250°F) which is produced from shallow wells and then distributed through surface pipework. One very popular direct use application of geothermal energy is for bathing in natural hot springs. Spas all over the world use naturally produced hot water for recreational and therapeutic purposes. In Utah, the Crystal Hot Springs offers warm and mineral-rich baths which attracts numerous visitors throughout the year.

Another direct use application is space heating that may serve a single, stand-alone structure, or more commonly multiple buildings, which are linked by a pipeline that supplies hot water. For regions that are subject to cold winters, this is a cost effective means of heating without contributing to atmospheric pollution. District heating has been in use since the late 1890s when the city of Boise, Idaho started using geothermal energy to heat buildings. District heating is also popular in China, Iceland, France, Germany, Hungary and New Zealand. In the state of Utah, the prison at the Point of the Mountain uses district heating for 330,000 sq. ft. of prison space, saving thousands of dollars over conventional heating systems.

This type of geothermal energy is even used to heat greenhouses to grow plants. The Milgro complex in Newcastle, Utah is one of the largest producers of poinsettias and chrysanthemums in the USA; it uses geothermally heated greenhouses to grow its flowers. This type of energy is also used to heat ponds for aquaculture and fish farming. The warm springs near Grantsville, Utah are filled with warm, mineral-rich water that supports a variety of fish and are also an attraction for scuba-diving activities. Fish breeders in Idaho farm a range of species, including ones requiring geothermally heated ponds, which famously once included alligators!

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Did you know… how geothermal energy is utilized?

Did you know how geothermal energy is utilized?

The three most common applications are heat pumps, direct use, and electricity generation. Geothermal heat pumps extract heat from the shallow subsurface for heating in the winter and reject the heat back into the ground in the summer for cooling. Heat pump systems are the fastest growing use of geothermal energy in the world. They can be installed in individual homes or large buildings. Gardner Hall at the University of Utah is one of several large buildings in Utah using heat pumps for heating and cooling. Heat pumps do not require a source of hot water, instead they use the natural thermal energy in the ground at less than 5 feet depth.

Where hot water occurs in the shallow subsurface at temperatures between 35° and 150°C (95-300°F), it can be used directly for bathing and spas, heating buildings, and for industrial purposes such as vegetable drying and raising fish. The poinsettias and chrysanthemums sold in grocery and garden stores are grown in a 24 acre geothermally heated greenhouse complex in Newcastle, Utah.

Geothermal power plants produce electricity from hot water with temperatures ranging from about 150° to 320°C (300 to 600°F). The lower temperatures can be found throughout the western USA; the highest temperatures are common around volcanoes, including those making up the Pacific Ring of Fire.

The hottest geothermal wells produce steam, which is used to spin turbines for electric generation. Where just hot water is produced, a heat exchanger is used to boil a secondary fluid to produce vapor that spins the turbine. Once the electricity is generated, the water is injected back into the hot subsurface reservoir where it is reheated. Recently, the University of Utah signed a contract with Cyrq Energy for 20 megawatts of geothermal electricity. This geothermal electricity will provide about one third of the University of Utah’s power requirements.


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EPA ranks U No. 8 for green power use among universities


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Did you know… that Utah is No. 3 in the US for it geothermal energy production?

Did you know that Utah is No.3* in the United States for its production of geothermal energy?

The State of Utah is responsible for 2.8 % of the national geothermal power production. The United States leads the world in the amount of electricity generated with geothermal energy, producing about 16.7 billion kilowatthours (kWh), equal to 0.4% of total national electricity generation. Utah is one of the eight states that are producing geothermal energy, and currently has three geothermal electric plants. The three generation facilities are at Roosevelt Hot Springs by Utah Power and CalEnergy Corp., Thermo Hot Springs by Raser, and Cove Fort Station of Utah Municipal Power Association. While the state of Utah is now capable of generating 72 megawatts**, the Utah Governor’s Office of Energy believes it can increase geothermal power generation by another 2,200 megawatts hoping to bring more clean and renewable energy into the state’s power source.


*California leads the nation’s geothermal energy generation with a national share of 71.9 %, and Nevada follows second with 21.7%

**A megawatt can power between 750 and 1,000 homes


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2019 in Review

The Utah FORGE project made a number of important advances in 2019 in preparation for the start of deep drilling in 2020. Instrumentation for seismic monitoring was enhanced with the drilling of two new vertical holes, 68-32 (1000’ deep) and 78-32 (3200’ depth), which house permanently installed downhole geophones (68-32) and a distributed acoustic sensing cable (78-32). The new downhole seismic monitoring was augmented with the temporary installation of a Schlumberger multi-level geophone string in 78-32, plus surface deployment of a high-density nodal array. All of this high-resolution seismic monitoring was put in place for stimulation experiments in well 58-32 that were run over a two and a half week period in late April.

Key outcomes of the stimulation include verification that the existing reservoir fracture network can be activated to transmit injected water. The work showed that there were multiple favorable intervals for stimulation in the well, including behind perforated casing. Microseismic events down to -2 magnitude tracked fluid flow in the stimulated intervals, proving the detection sensitivity of the seismic monitoring network. The resulting large data sets were processed and modeled using state of the art computer processing to understand the interplay of fracture dilation and fluid flow in the crystalline reservoir rock. A synthesis of this work is described in the Phase 2C topical report available from GDR.

Other notable outcomes in 2019 include improved understanding of geoscientific attributes. The Mineral Mountains West fault system was shown to terminate south of the Utah FORGE site. A flow test during the drilling of the shallow part of 78-32 proved adequate supply of non-potable groundwater for future needs. InSAR surveys indicate there was no induced ground deformation. Much of the research findings obtained from 2015 to 2018 were published by the Utah Geological Survey in an open access bulletin (UGS MP 169) entitled “Geothermal Characteristics of the Roosevelt Hot Springs System and Adjacent FORGE EGS site, Milford, Utah”, comprising 14 separate chapters.

Chem. Eng Students Win AIChE


Two teams of undergraduate students from the University of Utah’s Department of Chemical Engineering dominated the first ever AIChE K–12 STEM Outreach Competition. The teams, advised by associate professor (lecturer) Tony Butterfield, took first and second place with teaching modules on how thermoelectric energy works and how to build working air quality sensors with plastic toy blocks.

“We have spent about a decade putting together an exemplary outreach program here in the department,” Butterfield said. “It was a really rewarding experience to have our students go there and not only compete and win but to be able to interface with leaders in chemical engineering industry.”

The competition was held Nov. 12 at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Annual Meeting and Student Conference in Orlando and was designed to “showcase interactive experiments that demonstrate the wonders of chemical engineering and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) to K–12 students,” according to the organization.

The first-place team comprised of students Katrina Le, Matt Dailey and Shaylee Larson presented a teaching module based on building working portable air quality sensors with toy building blocks similar to LEGOs. The module already is being taught in high school classrooms all over Salt Lake County.

For full story click here: https://www.che.utah.edu/2019/11/25/students-win-national-aiche-competition/

At the Governor’s Energy Summit

Among the many speakers and participants at this year's Summit were leaders and proponents of renewable energy sources.  This was the Eight's Annual Governor's Energy Summit and second  for the UtahFORGE team to represent the project which was among the few mentioned in the speeches by the Utah Governor's Energy Advisor Laura Nelson, Utah's Governor Gary Herbert, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, and the EERE Assistant Secretary Daniel Simmons.

You can listen to the opening speech by the Utah's Governor Gary Herbert featured in this post by FOX13 news (scroll down to the second video, mention @ 4:25 time).

There is "enormous untapped potential for geothermal energy in the United States" said U.S. Secretary Rick Perry on the heels of the newly released study by the Department of Energy: GeoVision: Harnessing the Heat Beneath Our Feet.



Generating Power:

These small hands-on modules developed by Dr. Anthony Butterfield and Andy Simonson from the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Utah  are some of the tools that help in understanding how energy can be produced, eg. heat transfer.