Geothermal Energy & Place-Based Energy Transitions

In my dissertation work on deep geothermal energy (DGE), I am using a range of methods including textual analysis, focus groups, and interviews to trace how stakeholders interpret DGE projects, public engagement processes, risks, and benefits through the lens of place and energy imaginaries. DGE is an emerging form of renewable energy, but little research has investigated public responses to its development and associated risks like induced earthquakes.

Theoretical Perspective: I combine place theory with the concept of sociotechnical imaginaries: collectively held visions of desirable futures and the role of technology (Jasanoff & Kim, 2009). I examine contextual factors such as place meanings, identity, and legacies of energy and extraction in a setting, while using the concept of place-technology fit (Devine-Wright & Howes, 2010; McLachlan, 2009) to connect these factors with perceptions of DGE technology. Place-technology fit characterizes a perceived lack of fit between symbolic meanings of place and technology as a driver of opposition; I expand the concept to include energy imaginaries, considering not just individual-level meanings, but the collective visions of the future within which technologies are embedded, such as energy independence and leadership.

I find that imaginaries of place and geothermal energy at local, regional, and national scales interact, compete, and are reinterpreted within a local context in ways that fuel local negotiations of risk acceptability through perceptions of alignment or misalignment across scales. I also examine how context-sensitive communication and engagement strategies from geothermal developers navigate and draw on these imaginaries of place and energy to influence project success and community support.

I have presented the results of this work at the Society for Risk Analysis, the Geothermal Resource Council, and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. I am currently developing these concepts further in collaboration with researchers at University of Geneva in Switzerland, where as part of the DEEP project we are using a cross-national survey to explore how perceptions of the deep underground impact reactions to DGE and other subterranean processes in Europe and the US.


  • December 2021: “Competing imaginaries of energy and place in negotiations of local geothermal energy acceptance,” Society for Risk Analysis
  • October 2021: Shaping the Future of Geothermal Energy: DOE STEMtober Student Highlights
  • August 2021: NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, Decision, Risk and Management Sciences
  • June 2021: 3rd Place, Department of Energy Geothermal Collegiate Competition
  • October 2020: “Public attitudes towards enhanced geothermal heating: the role of place, community, and visions of energy futures,” Geothermal Resources Council.
  • August 2020: “Beneath our feet: Depictions of risk, dread, and visions of the future in media coverage of enhanced geothermal energy.” Top Student Paper Award, 2nd Place, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Communicating Science, Health, Environment, and Risk Division.
  • December 2019: “Public attitudes about energy transitions and enhanced geothermal heating: the influence of place meaning, identity, and attachment,” Society for Risk Analysis.
  • September 2019: Marcelo Lippmann Graduate Scholarship Award, Geothermal Resource Council