the results are in

Houston geothermal energy company announces major milestone

Houston-based Fervo Energy shared the results of its commercial pilot project with Google. Photo via Getty Images

A Houston energy startup has announced the news that every early-stage company wants to get to shout from the rooftops: the technology works.

Fervo Energy announced this week that its commercial pilot project has resulted in continuous carbon-free geothermal energy production. The full-scale commercial pilot, Project Red, is in northern Nevada and made possible through a 2021 partnership with Google.

“By applying drilling technology from the oil and gas industry, we have proven that we can produce 24/7 carbon-free energy resources in new geographies across the world," Tim Latimer, Fervo Energy CEO and co-founder, says in a news release. "The incredible results we share today are the product of many years of dedicated work and commitment from Fervo employees and industry partners, especially Google."

The goal of the partnership is to power Google’s Cloud region in Las Vegas with Fervo's geothermal-generated power.

“Achieving our goal of operating on 24/7 carbon-free energy will require new sources of firm, clean power to complement variable renewables like wind and solar,” adds Michael Terrell, senior director for energy and climate at Google. “We partnered with Fervo in 2021 because we see significant potential for their geothermal technology to unlock a critical source of 24/7 carbon-free energy at scale, and we are thrilled to see Fervo reach this important technical milestone.”

In honor of the announcement, today — July 19 — is the inaugural Fervo Energy Technology Day.

Fervo’s unique horizontal drilling technology has made an unprecedented accomplishment with Project Red, which has also proven the reliability and capacity of geothermal energy to supply over 20 percent of country's power needs, the company explains in its news release.

“Power systems modeling confirms that geothermal can be a critical player in a fully decarbonized grid," says Jesse Jenkins, assistant professor and leader of the Zero-carbon Energy systems Research and Optimization lab at Princeton University, in the release. "Fervo’s successful commercial pilot takes next-generation geothermal technology from the realm of models into the real world and starts us on a path to unlock geothermal’s full potential.”

Fervo has started work on its first greenfield development in southwest Utah, which is adjacent to the U.S. Department of Energy's Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE).

Last year, Fervo raised $138 million to further develop its technology. The series C round was led by California-based investment firm DCVC, with participation from six new investors. In April, Fervo Energy secured the $10 million strategic investment from Devon Energy Corporation (NYSE: DVN). The deal created a partnership between the two entities.

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A View From HETI

Houston could have ranked higher on a global report of top cities in the world if it had a bit more business diversification. Photo via Getty Images

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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