February 23, 2024

The enhanced geothermal project of Houston-based startup Fervo Energy and Google has started operations, with carbon-free electricity flowing into the local grid serving Google’s Nevada data centers.

Fervo and Google signed the world’s first corporate agreement to develop next-generation geothermal power in 2021, aiming to power Google’s Cloud region in Las Vegas with an “always-on”, carbon-free resource that will reduce the company’s hourly reliance on fossil fuels. The start of operations at the Nevada geothermal plant contributes to Google’s goal of operating its data centers and office campuses on 24/7 carbon-free energy on the grids where it operates by 2030, the company said in a news release.

In July, Fervo successfully completed a well test to confirm the commercial viability of using oil and gas drilling technology for geothermal energy in its commercial pilot project named Project Red, which the company said established the project as “the most productive enhanced geothermal system in history”.

At the Nevada project site, Fervo dug two horizontal wells and installed fiber-optic cables to capture data that shows the flow, temperature and performance of the geothermal system in real-time, resulting in a geothermal plant that can produce round-the-clock carbon-free energy using less land than other clean energy sources and drawing on skills, knowledge, and supply chains that exist in other industries, Google said.

In a bid to further advance geothermal technologies, Google also announced a partnership with Project InnerSpace, a leading non-profit organization dedicated to the global development of geothermal energy, to accelerate the adoption of geothermal energy.

New Geothermal Project in Utah

Meanwhile, Fervo began its exploration drilling campaign at Cape Station, a next-generation geothermal energy project set to deliver 400 megawatts of 24/7 carbon-free electricity. Located in Beaver County, Utah, Cape Station will begin delivering around-the-clock, clean power to the grid in 2026 and reach full-scale production in 2028, Fervo said in a separate news release.

According to the release, Utah is home to immense geothermal potential, with researchers estimating the southwest portion of the state to contain more than 10 gigawatts of high-quality geothermal reserves. Cape Station will also benefit from the Department of Energy’s Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE), which has completed research that has dramatically advanced geothermal development in the region in the last six years, Fervo said.

“Beaver County, Utah is the perfect place to deploy our next-generation geothermal technology”, Fervo CEO and Co-Founder Tim Latimer said. “The warmth and hospitality we have experienced from the communities of Milford and Beaver have allowed us to embark on a clean energy journey none of us could have imagined just a few years ago. Thanks to cutting edge research and data collection from FORGE, Fervo can accelerate the production of the region’s geothermal resources”.

Fervo noted that it is working with experienced oil and gas companies, including Helmerich & Payne, Devon Energy, and Liberty Energy.

In February, the Utah Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved the project’s first environmental assessment (EA), issuing a Finding of No Significant Impact pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, which allowed Fervo to start exploration activities at the Cape Station site.

Utah Governor Spencer Cox said, “Utah is no stranger to energy leadership. For decades, oil and gas workers in the Uinta Basin have produced energy vital to the growth of not just our state but our nation. Geothermal innovations like those pioneered by Fervo will play a critical role in extending Utah’s energy leadership for generations to come”.

Fervo’s projects support the findings of the USA Department of Energy’s (DOE) Enhanced Geothermal Earthshot. The Enhanced Geothermal Earthshot initiative aims to bring enhanced geothermal systems to the country by reducing its cost by 90 percent to $45 per megawatt-hour by 2035. Fervo earlier said that geothermal energy could supply over 20 percent of U.S. power needs and complement wind and solar to reach a fully decarbonized grid.

To contact the author, email rocky.teodoro@rigzone.com

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