Co-authored by Albert Wenger.

Geothermal energy is a vastly underdeveloped resource relative to its potential; just 0.1% of the Earth’s heat content could supply humanity’s total energy needs for two million years. It is also a great source of reliable, around the clock power: key to developing a resilient and clean energy supply.

Geothermal development has historically been risky and costly. Unlike solar and wind, which are easy to measure with publicly available data from satellites and weather stations, understanding variations in heat below the earth’s surface is significantly more difficult. The DOE estimates that the majority of conventional geothermal resources are still undiscovered, but the challenge of finding the right mix of heat, permeability and fluid flow has made it difficult for the industry to attract the capital necessary to find them at scale. 

Instead, historical developments have mostly been limited to areas with visible surface features, such as geysers, or where the resource potential was discovered by accident. High failure rates and expensive drilling costs have further limited the ability of geothermal developers to explore new projects.. 

This data and discovery challenge is exactly what our newest investment, Zanskar, is working on. Zanskar’s integrated suite of data science and geoscience tools for geothermal developers help expand both the number of known geothermal resources and the generating capacity of operating and developing fields by leveraging historical data, improved sensing technologies, and machine learning.

We believe Zanskar’s platform can meaningfully reduce the biggest bottlenecks to geothermal development – failure rates and capex costs – to help identify and unlock geothermal potential in the US and beyond. 

While there is lots of innovation on geothermal drilling technologies, we continue to believe that there are complementary investment opportunities in scaling currently viable geothermal technology. Zanskar works with both traditional and new geothermal developers to help derisk the initial stages of exploration and development.
We couldn’t be more excited to back Carl, Joel, and the rest of the Zanskar team in the next phase of their journey alongside a stellar group of co-investors: Lowercarbon Capital, Prime Impact Fund, Munich Re Ventures, Safar Partners, Grantham Foundation, and First Star Ventures.