Report Examines New Mexico’s Geothermal Resources

“According to researchers in New Mexico, there are several promising resource areas in that state that are well-known,” states a new report from the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) that documents resurgence in geothermal development interest, “however, many believe New Mexico contains substantial untapped geothermal resources yet to be discovered.”

Excerpts from a report titled Geothermal Development Needs in New Mexico by Daniel Fleischmann follow. New Mexico’s geothermal resource base is both underestimated and underutilized, and improved economics and advanced technology have made geothermal resource development an attractive alternative to reduce New Mexico’s reliance on fossil fuels. As energy demand continues to rise throughout the U.S. (particularly in the West), states are forced to grapple with their reliance on fossil fuels. Despite being a state with plentiful natural resources, New Mexico gets over 95% of its electric power from fossil fuel sources (primarily from coal). Although New Mexico is currently a net-exporter of energy, there has been growing concern that the state’s energy production has been overly reliant on fossil fuels. … The question posed in this report is what programs and policies the state (as well as the federal government) can pursue to more effectively encourage development of these resources, and how industry can work with policymakers to take these programs and policies from discussion to implementation. Efforts to develop and explore for high-temperature geothermal resources (capable of power production) began in New Mexico in the early 1970s after the first energy crisis. Large amounts of land were leased for geothermal exploration in the state during the 1970s and 1980s. However, only a few areas were seriously drilled during that time, while many other potential resource areas were left unexplored. Interest in developing these resources has re-emerged in recent years with new projects proposed and new drilling performed. This report incorporates the findings of the Strategic Plan, along with other relevant literature and interviews with numerous stakeholders in New Mexico. Its purpose is to determine how policymakers on the state and federal level can meet the needs of the industry to encourage new development in the state. For the purposes of this report, “geothermal resources” are defined as resources with temperatures at least sufficient for thermal use in New Mexico’s climate: 38 degrees C (100 degrees F) (however higher temperatures may be needed in some cases while lower temperatures may be possible in other cases). Like the Strategic Plan, this document focuses on both power production (i.e., power plants and distributed generation from intermediate- to high-temperature resources) and direct uses (i.e., direct-use applications using low- to intermediate-temperature resources). The first part of the report discusses promising geothermal resource areas in the state and the efforts to develop them. The second part discusses power production for the electric grid and distributed generation. The final section of the report discusses direct-use applications. This report is one of several examinations of obstacles and opportunities for geothermal energy on the state level being conducted by GEA.


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