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NMSU climate change lecture to explore using geothermal energy to extend renewable supplies

Release Date: 23 Sep 2022
NMSU climate change lecture to explore using geothermal energy to extend renewable supplies

As greenhouse gases make the Earth’s atmosphere hotter, some are looking to tap underground heat as part of the solution.

That strategy will be the topic of an upcoming talk, the latest in the New Mexico State University Climate Change Education Seminar Series at 7 p.m. Sept. 28 at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, 4100 Dripping Springs Road. Aggie alumnus Derek Adams, chief executive officer and co-founder of EarthBridge Energy, will deliver a lecture titled “Geothermal and the Energy Transition: Using the Earth to Save the Earth” in the museum auditorium.

The Texas-based EarthBridge Energy is focused on storing excess energy, produced renewably via wind and solar projects, underground where it can be retrieved later as geothermal energy while pushing society closer to a net-zero future, according to its website.

“EarthBridge Energy is a company that is working on climate solutions by using existing drilled well holes to store and provide geothermal energy,” said Nancy McMillan, head of the NMSU Department of Geological Sciences. “This kind of creative thinking is what is needed to provide clean energy alternatives. And, of course, we are very proud of CEO Derek Adams, who launched his career here as a geology undergraduate at NMSU.”

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in geology at NMSU, Adams went on to earn a Ph.D. in earth and planetary science from Northwestern University. He worked for more than a decade in industry exploring and developing large energy projects at ExxonMobil.

NMSUCCESS is an interdisciplinary series that brings a range of experts, like Adams, to NMSU and venues in Las Cruces to discuss the causes and consequences of climate change.

Geothermal energy holds promise as a huge source of renewable supply, but its potential is still largely untapped. In 2019, U.S. geothermal power plants produced 16 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, all in the West. That amount clocks in at less than half a percent of the total U.S. utility flow generation, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

U.S. geothermal energy is generated through 93 power plants, more than one-third of which are situated on public lands. Ninety percent of current U.S. geothermal power generation occurs in California and Nevada, with other plants located in Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho and New Mexico. NMSU even taps into geothermal energy as part of its campus heating and cooling system.

A recent National Renewable Energy Laboratory report noted that “Increasing the use of geothermal energy for U.S. heating and cooling can significantly contribute to Biden administration decarbonization goals to cut U.S. emissions by half in 2030 and achieve a carbon-free electric sector by 2035. For example, the GDH system in Paris, France, saves 120,000 tons of CO2 annually by offsetting emissions from 170,000 buildings.”

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