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Participant Bio: Susan Petty

July 13, 2012


Susan Petty is instrumental to the work underway at the Newberry EGS Demonstration, and to the work of AltaRock Energy. Petty is President of AltaRock and serves as Chief Technology Officer on the demonstration.

Background and Introduction to Geothermal Energy

Petty graduated from Princeton with a BA in geology in 1973, the first class with women at Princeton. She continued her studies at the University of Hawaii, where she earned a Masters in Civil Engineering with a specialty in Groundwater Hydrology.

It was there, at UH, that Petty first learned about geothermal energy from an engineering professor. When the University drilled a geothermal well on the Big Island of Hawaii, Petty was among the students who got to help design the testing program and analyze data from the tests. That was when she decided to make geothermal energy her life’s work.

Role in the Demonstration

Petty developed the original concept of the demonstration itself and serves as principal investigator, keeping the project focused on its primary goals: advancing EGS stimulation technology to lower the cost of EGS power and demonstrating that EGS can be a source of baseload renewable power for the future.

She also gives many of the public presentations and talks with the press about the project, including an interview with Ira Flatow on NPR’s Science Friday. “That was definitely on my bucket list,” she said.

In Her Own Words: Energy Reflections

On the demonstration’s progress and development:

“Seeing the project move from a gleam in our eyes to an actual operation on the ground has been the most rewarding thing I think I’ve ever been involved with. This is really ground-breaking technology, and watching the data unfold is like watching the slowest movie in the world, but to me it’s just mesmerizing.”

On contemporary energy issues:

“I’m really fascinated by the economics of energy technology improvement. How does new technology impact the cost of power and how does that affect the supply of power from that source?  Energy storage is also part of this, because for intermittent sources of renewable energy, the ability of storage to improve economics is just huge.”

In Her Free Time

Outside of her work at AltaRock, Petty enjoys gardening, particularly growing herbs and unusual vegetables. While growing sun-loving things in the Pacific Northwest can be a challenge, herbs take well to the environment, which makes cooking and exploring flavors especially enjoyable.

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