Busy as a beaver: Utah Forge

February 29, 2024
Above: Utah FORGE's Gosia Skowron discusses thermal characteristics with students in a classroom visit. Credit Flash Point SLC

Beaver dams might look like scattered piles of sticks in the water but they serve an important role in offering protection and a training ground for young beavers to learn dam-building skills. In Beaver County, Utah — named after the many beaver dams in the region — another project has successfully been providing benefits to its community: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Geothermal Technologies Office’s (GTO) largest initiative, the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE).

Deep in the heart of this rocky area in the western United States, FORGE researchers, scientists, and other professionals are working hard to advance enhanced geothermal systems (EGS). FORGE has realized many achievements in EGS since GTO launched the initiative in 2015—including becoming a full-scale underground research laboratory with eight wells covering more than 10 miles drilled in total.

The initiative is managed by the Energy & Geoscience Institute at the University of Utah where faculty from the Department of Geology & Geophysics are deeply enmeshed.

As the site continues to grow toward its technical goals for EGS, FORGE staff also educate and engage with local residents and students to increase awareness about the clean energy that can be harnessed through the heat beneath their feet. Their outreach work in this area is proving valuable to help local officials, residents, and businesses understand geothermal energy, and in forging substantive relationships and understanding with the community as they've expanded the technical capacity of their site.

The staff’s dedication to improving basic knowledge of geothermal technologies is clear throughout its outreach activities. “They're very visible, they're here all the time, they're talking all the time,” said Beaver County Commissioner Tammy Pearson of the FORGE team at DOE’s Enhanced Geothermal Shot™ summit in 2023. “They do quarterly reports with our commission. They are really integrating in the education system, in our elementary schools and the high schools. I think they are just so consistent in their visibility and engagement."

In November 2023, the team held a workshop for teachers to learn more about the “heat beneath our feet” and FORGE’s work (check out their resources for teachers). In addition, FORGE’s outreach team has visited several classrooms and even created a geothermal song parody contest for students. The FORGE team also works to develop and distribute resources to K-12 and university-level students and supports classroom activities and science fairs.

Watch a video and read the rest of the article (with more photos) by the Office of ENERGY EFFICIENCY & RENEWABLE ENERGY.

University of Utah students BJ Iturrieta and Sarah Buening "flash the U" while hosting the Utah FORGE booth during the university's Welcome Week. Credit: Utah FORGE





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