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Houston company breaks ground on 'world's largest' geothermal project with next-generation tech

Things are heating up in Utah for Fervo Energy. Photo via fervoenergy.com

Houston-based cleantech startup Fervo Energy has broken ground on what it's describing as the "world’s largest next-gen geothermal project."

Fervo says the a 400-milliwatt geothermal energy project in Cape Station, Utah, will start delivering carbon-free power to the grid in 2026, with full-scale production beginning in 2028.

The project, in southwest Utah, is about 240 miles southwest of Salt Lake City and about 240 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Cape Station is adjacent to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) and near the Blundell geothermal power plant.

The company says Cape Station will generate about 6,600 construction jobs and 160 full-time jobs.

“Beaver County, Utah, is the perfect place to deploy our next-generation geothermal technology,” Tim Latimer, co-founder and CEO of Fervo, says in a news release. “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.”

In February, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management gave its blessing to the project, allowing Fervo to undertake exploration activities at the site.

“Geothermal innovations like those pioneered by Fervo will play a critical role in extending Utah’s energy leadership for generations to come,” says Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony.

Since being founded in 2017, Fervo has raised more than $180 million in funding. Its highest-profile investors are billionaires Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and Bill Gates. They’re backing Fervo through Breakthrough Energy Ventures, whose managing director sits on Fervo’s board of directors.

Other investors include the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments), DCVC, Devon Energy, Liberty Energy, Helmerich & Payne, Macquarie, the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, Impact Science Ventures, and Prelude Ventures.

Fervo aims to generate more than one gigawatt of geothermal energy by 2030. On average, one gigawatt of power can provide electricity for 750,000 homes. Two coal-fired power plants can generate roughly the same amount of electricity.

Earlier this year, Fervo announced results of a test at Nevada’s Project Red site, which will supply power to Google data centers in the Las Vegas area. Fervo says the 30-day well test established Project Red as the “most productive enhanced geothermal system in history,” the company says. The test generated 3.5 megawatts of electricity.

In 2021, Fervo and Google signed the world’s first corporate agreement to produce geothermal power. Under the deal, Fervo will generate five megawatts of geothermal energy for Google through the Nevada project, which is set to go online later this year.

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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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