Mar 10, 2022 - Energy & Environment

CEO of geothermal startup Fervo Energy looks forward

Tim Latimer, CEO of the startup Fervo Energy.

Tim Latimer, CEO of the startup Fervo Energy. Photo Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Rig photo: Josh Posamentier

HOUSTON — Geothermal energy is hot these days, despite supplying a tiny share of global power, as startups employing sophisticated technologies are attracting significant venture capital.

What they're saying: Tim Latimer, CEO of the startup Fervo Energy, chatted with Axios at a major energy conference here.

  • The company raised $28 million last year from investors including the Bill Gates-led Breakthrough Energy Ventures, and he said total VC funding to date is almost $60 million.

Some highlights...

Don't look for a single tech winner. Fervo's next-generation geothermal system relies on sophisticated horizontal drilling and fiber optic sensing.

  • But others in the space are aiming to commercialize closed-loop systems and even tap "supercritical" resources at stunning depths.
  • "This is a very big market prize that people are going after. I think there's going to be many different solutions," he said at the CERAWeek by S&P Global conference.

Policy matters. Latimer said the renewable power tax incentives in President Biden's stalled domestic spending plan are important.

  • But he's also seeking executive permitting reforms for projects on federal lands.
  • "In a weird way, considering it's 2022 and we're all focused on the climate crisis, it's way easier to permit oil-and-gas drilling on federal lands than it is geothermal drilling," Latimer said.

They're weighing going public. "We're exploring new financing, both private and public, in ways that are going to let us grow faster and have more impact sooner.

"The 24/7 clean power movement is bullish. Geothermal can help provide clean baseload power.

  • That matters as companies like Google (which Fervo is working with), the federal government and others look to begin powering facilities with clean power around the clock, not just aim to match annual demand with renewables.
  • "It's very clear to us, the way this market is going both in the public sector and the private sector, that very quickly, 24/7 carbon-free energy is going to become the new standard," he said.
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