The geothermal energy team will develop a better understanding of factors that affect the viability and sustainability of NM’s underlying natural hydrothermal systems. New Mexico is endowed with relatively high background heat flow and permeable, fractured bedrock. These conditions have given rise to numerous low temperature geothermal systems. Developing geothermal energy as a viable and sustainable resource in NM, however, will require a better understanding of the underlying natural hydrothermal systems and of the practical limitations and human technologies involved in its application.
Our research will focus on two areas of inquiry:
How long-lived are fault controlled and topography-driven geothermal systems within New Mexico? Is the development of geothermal systems associated with discharge areas of regional, topography-driven flow systems more sustainable than the development of fault controlled systems driven by natural convection?
What is the extent of degradation of groundwater and surface water quality from hydrothermal systems in NM?
Hydrothermal energy exploration and utilization has the potential to become increasingly important to NM’s energy future. Developing a fundamental understanding of the magnitude and sustainability of geothermal resources has direct implications for NM economic development as communities develop these resources for aquaculture, tourism and other possible uses.