After the governor vetoed legislation to support geothermal energy that received limited opposition from lawmakers during the legislative session was vetoed, Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, has his eyes set on the upcoming session to try again.
He told the Economic and Rural Development and Policy Committee that the geothermal working group has met with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and anticipates that she will include geothermal legislation in her call for the upcoming session.
Lujan Grisham vetoed HB 365, the Geothermal Center and Fund, and SB 173, which would have created tax credits for geothermal energy.
Ortiz y Pino said the legislation is the result of a two-year long process undertaken by the geothermal working group.
“This all started when someone sent me an email with a link to a TED talk,” he said.
That TED talk revealed to the state senator that New Mexico already has a lot of what is needed for geothermal energy, including the workforce, geology and expertise.
He then spoke with Tom Solomon of 350 New Mexico and they formed the geothermal working group.
Ortiz y Pino said that he was surprised when the governor vetoed the bill earlier this year.
Geothermal energy was one of the committee topics that focused on how to transition to clean energy and meet all the electricity demands.
Ortiz y Pino said that geothermal can fill the gaps when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.
“To us, geothermal offers the perfect solution,” he said.
He said geothermal energy, which is drawn off the heat beneath the ground’s surface, is available anytime, inexhaustible and is a clean source of energy.
Solomon said they believe New Mexico could generate one to three gigawatts of electricity.
The legislation will include a couple of phases. The first phase will focus on providing grants and loans to existing businesses that utilize geothermal.
Should the legislation pass and receive the governor’s approval, the second phase would promote longer term development of geothermal resources to provide 10 percent of the state’s electricity.
“Many people in the geothermal industry recognize that we have ‘good geology,’” said Shari Kelly, a senior geophysicist and field geologist with the Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.
The best resources are in the Valles Caldera National Preserve, but Kelly said that is off limits for geothermal development.
However, there are various hot springs and hot wells along the Rio Grande Rift in New Mexico. The Rio Grande Rift is an area where the earth’s crust is thinner and water that has gained heat underground moves to the surface through rift-related faults. That process creates the hot springs. There are 29 hot springs in New Mexico.
By utilizing a process known as advanced geothermal, a closed loop system can be drilled to extract the heat from the subsurface. That heat can then turn turbines and generate electricity.
Electricity is not the only opportunity for geothermal. It can also be used to heat houses and businesses utilizing technology like heat pumps.