In the heart of Texas, a source of energy is abundant

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I, and many others, have long supported an “all of the above” approach to energy development here. This was quite easy considering the abundance of varied resources found in Texas. Yet one resource, geothermal energy, has never been widely considered, discussed or used. Now is the time for a new approach: “all of the above – and below”.

In addition to providing heating and cooling directly to industrial, commercial and residential consumers, geothermal energy is clean, renewable, reliable, distributable and basic, and lies right under our feet. Thanks to technological advances, geothermal energy is increasingly available and considered profitable in many parts of Texas and should become a priority for industry, policy makers and energy consumers.

Historically, geothermal power generation was limited to places where very hot water or steam naturally came to or near the surface: Indonesia, parts of Iceland and California. Breakthroughs in research and development, honed with a highly skilled workforce in the oil and gas industry, now allow us to drill for heat at depths far below the Earth’s surface.

Today, electricity is mainly produced by burning fossil fuels to boil water, producing steam, which then spins a turbine generator. Geothermal energy is similar to this process, except instead of burning fuel to generate steam, geothermal technologies tap directly into warm temperatures below the Earth’s surface.

Geothermal development has the potential to produce clean, abundant, and reliable baseload energy while taking advantage of Texas’ oil and gas workforce. Yes, oil and gas production has recently hit record highs due to high prices in a global economy recovering from the pandemic; however, many of us understand the cyclical nature of the oil field and the loss of jobs when prices are low. Geothermal energy can leverage oil and gas labor during the ups and downs.

Texas is not immune to occasional energy problems. During the week of February 15, 2021, unusually cold weather caused power loss to more than 4.5 million people in Texas, some for several days. Hundreds of people died in this winter event, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas valued between $80 billion and $130 billion in direct and indirect losses to the Texas economy.

According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and the North American Electric Reliability Corp., every type of energy resource – gas, coal, nuclear, wind, etc. – experienced a “forced outage” following prolonged below freezing time. Because geothermal energy depends on the Earth’s heat, not the vagaries of Mother Nature, it has the potential to be an invaluable and reliable energy resource, especially during extreme weather events.

While Texas dabbled in geothermal energy about 30 years ago, recent advances in technology have led to the development of new ventures and corporate alliances. Given the popularity and potential of geothermal energy, the Texas Geothermal Alliance, or TxGEA, recently launched to coordinate, educate and promote the development of geothermal energy and its associated technologies in our great state.

A study to be published this spring,The future of geothermal energy in Texas“, will inform the mission of TxGEA. The research report will provide a roadmap for progress in geothermal energy. Early results are promising, and the excitement around geothermal energy in Texas is as hot as the energy we hope to capture.

With the crisis in Ukraine bringing soaring gas prices to the fore, rapid advances in geothermal energy can bolster the Texas economy and help America regain energy independence.

Cindy Taff, a 36-year veteran of the oil and gas industry, is the chief operating officer of Sage Geosystems, a Texas-based geothermal energy company.

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