DOE Announces Winners of the 2022 Geothermal Collegiate Competition

June 1, 2022 | By Kelly MacGregor | Contact media relations

A team photo of the University of Oklahoma first place winners.
The University of Oklahoma team won first place in the 2022 Geothermal Collegiate Competition for their design repurposing six abandoned oil and gas wells to instead harness geothermal energy.

Students from the University of Oklahoma took home first place and $10,000 in prize funding as part of the U.S. Department of Energy 2022 Geothermal Collegiate Competition, an annual event that prepares students to lead the next generation of geothermal energy development.

"Geothermal energy is a 24/7 source of renewable energy that has the potential to reliably power, heat, and cool millions of American homes," said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman. "The Geothermal Collegiate Competition prepares students to scale up geothermal technologies in a way that prioritizes individual communities and their unique needs."

The Geothermal Collegiate Competition is designed to inspire students to consider new career opportunities, learn geothermal industry-relevant skills, and connect students to their communities. As part of the competition, students assumed the role of project developers, working with communities across the U.S. to identify local energy challenges and explore geothermal energy solutions. In addition to technical research, teams conducted an economic feasibility analysis, crafted a strategy for local stakeholder engagement, and created geothermal education modules in partnership with local schools.

“I can't wait to see how all of these students will continue to work with communities and contribute to our nation’s geothermal story.”
–Elisabet Metcalfe, Stakeholder Engagement Lead with the Geothermal Technologies Office
  • The Sooners Geothermal Team from the University of Oklahoma took first place for designing a system repurposing six abandoned oil and gas wells in Shawnee, Oklahoma, to provide clean, renewable geothermal energy for more than 730,449 square feet of educational and municipal buildings, including sites within the Absentee Shawnee Tribe and Potawatomi Nation jurisdiction. By using previously drilled wells that were no longer producing, the team was able to reduce drilling costs to feasibly power local schools, religious centers, and government buildings.
  • The University of North Dakota and Reykjavik University earned second place and $5,000 for their design of a combined heat and power geothermal system for the city of New Town, North Dakota, located on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation and home to the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara (MHA) Nation. The team used extensive, preexisting geological information from oil and gas exploration in the area to design a system that could heat and power an entire district, including potential for greenhouses and aquaculture efforts.
  • The University of Colorado–Boulder took third place and $2,500 in prize funding for their design of a geothermal ground-source heat pump for a local nonprofit that provides a range of support to young people from under-resourced communities. As part of their stakeholder engagement, the team led a series of geothermal educational lessons. The team's design offsets natural gas emissions from the organization's existing furnace while also minimizing costs of the transition. The system produces four times the energy it takes to run and is designed with heating during cold Colorado winters in mind, while also being reversible to cool in the summer.

"These teams presented incredibly complex systems and technical processes in innovative ways to a diverse set of stakeholders," said Elisabet Metcalfe, stakeholder engagement lead with the Geothermal Technologies Office. "The results are impressive and inspiring; I can't wait to see how all of these students will continue to work with communities and contribute to our nation's geothermal story."

The collegiate institutions of the first, second, and third-place teams will also receive a $10,000 University Support Cash Prize for their support of the team, specifically for planning and implementing local stakeholder engagement events scheduled to take place later this summer.

The 2023 Geothermal Collegiate Competition will take place during the spring semester, with team applications opening in fall 2022.

Learn more at the Geothermal Collegiate Competition website.