Geothermal fracking plant scores world-record energy contract in Utah

Just a year ago, Fervo Energy successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of its horizontally oriented geothermal system. Now the company has landed a massive contract for providing its clean, virtually endless power to the California grid.

It’s only been one year since Fervo Energy unveiled a novel concept in geothermal energy harvesting at its Project Red pilot plant in Nevada. Instead of drilling vertical bores that deliver water into the hot rocks lying beneath the Earth’s surface, it used techniques from the oil and gas industry to break up rocks, drive water through them horizontally, and collect the resultant steam to drive turbines at the surface.

The company said that its new method was set to change the geothermal landscape because it could work in many locales – not just those where hot rocks are close to the surface like in Iceland and New Zealand. And a new contract proves that it was right.

In what the company says is the world’s largest geothermal power purchase agreement, Fervo has signed a 15-year agreement with Southern California Edison to provide 320 MW of power to the utility, which will power about 350,000 homes. The power will be provided by Fervo’s Cape Station project that is currently being built in southwest Utah, with the first 70 MWs coming online in 2026 and the balance clicking on in 2028. This brings the current power contract total to 373 MW for the 400-MW-capacity plant in Beaver County.

The contract was helped along by a mandate issued in 2021 by the California Public Utilities Commission to secure 1,000 MW of “non-weather-dependent, non-battery, zero-emission energy to increase the reliability of the state’s electric grid,” says a Fervo statement. Indeed, unlike wind and solar which can be dramatically affected by the environment, geothermal is a much more stable energy source as the heat it draws upon is always accessible, just beneath the Earth’s surface.

“Enhanced geothermal systems complement our abundant wind and solar resources by providing critical base load when those sources are limited,” said California Energy Commission Chair David Hochschild. “This is key to ensuring reliability as we continue to transition away from fossil fuels.”

The new contract is the latest in a string of successes for Fervo that began when the Project Red plant, funded by Google, began supplying power to the tech giant’s data centers in Nevada late last year. The company also announced in February that it was able to speed up its processes, yielding drilling times that were 70% faster and 50% cheaper than they were in 2022.

“Geothermal stands as the dependable and adaptable solution essential for California’s journey towards a fully decarbonized grid,” said Fervo’s Dawn Owens. “As electrification increases and climate change burdens already fragile infrastructure, geothermal will only play a bigger role in US power markets.”

Indeed, the US Department of Energy estimates that the energy provided by geothermal power could grow by a factor of 20 as soon as 2050.

Source: Fervo Energy

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