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Van Tuyl Lecture (Virtual): Dr. Nicole Lautze, University of Hawaii

March 25, 2021 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Dr. Nicole Lautze, University of Hawaii

Topic: What We Know and Don’t Know about Hawaii’s Geothermal Resource


The State of Hawaii has the highest cost of electricity in the nation (roughly twice the national average), and a mandate to reach 100% renewable by 2045, yet still imports fossil fuels, including coal, to meet ~70% of its electricity needs.  Despite studies suggesting that indigenous geothermal energy could meet nearly ALL of the state’s electricity demand, and the fact that geothermal is baseload (*always on*), has the lowest footprint of all renewables, and is competitive if not lower in cost than other renewables, the current Power Supply Improvement Plan for the state projects only a doubling of the current geothermal output, from 38 to 80 MW (for reference, California’s current geothermal energy production is >2000MW and CA plans include to double if not triple this number).

The Hawai‘i Play Fairway is Hawai‘i’s first statewide geothermal resource assessment since 1985, and the $2.33 million project comprised three phases. In Phase 1, the project compiled existing geologic, groundwater, and geophysical datasets relevant to subsurface heat, fluid and permeability. The project developed a statistical methodology to integrate these data into a resource probability map. The map showed locations and probabilities of geothermal resources in the Hawaiian islands, and the project identified 10 locations for geothermal exploration. In Phase 2, the project collected groundwater data in those locations and new geophysical data on Lāna‘i, Maui, and central Hawai‘i Island and modeled topographically induced stress to better characterize subsurface permeability. The project updated the resource probability map with the Phase 2 data. In Phase 3, the project aimed to validate the methodology established in the earlier two phases through drilling. We partnered with Pūlama Lāna‘i to deepen an existing water well not in use – this is now the deepest well off of Hawaii Island, and drilled into a ~1Ma volcano. Preliminary data show definitive evidence of residual heat, lending evidence that even older volcanoes, e.g. on Oahu may also contain a geothermal resource.  This talk will review what we do know and the much we still do not know about geothermal in Hawai‘i.

This lecture is scheduled in a virtual format:

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March 25, 2021
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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