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Nicole Lautze

Nicole Lautze, a researcher at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, was recently honored with the 2017 Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) Education Award. This C3E Award recognizes the outstanding leadership and extraordinary achievements of mid-career women working to advance clean energy throughout the nation.

C3E is a program of the Clean Energy Ministerial, representing 25 major-economy governments accelerating the transition to clean energy technologies and policies. Lautze has mentored more than 30 undergraduate and graduate students, and been granted nearly $2 million as lead investigator during the past five years at UH Mānoa. According to the award letter, Lautze was “selected from an extremely competitive candidate pool” for her work toward clean energy and student engagement.

Before, during and after graduate school at the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, Lautze’s research and fellowships (including two Fulbrights) took her to Peru, Mexico and Italy, where she worked on active volcanoes. In 2010, she returned to Hawaiʻi, where the experience in geology and volcanology took on the very practical application of geothermal exploration.

Sharing information for a cleaner future

Nicole Lautze receiving the 2017 Clean Energy Education and Empowerment Education Award

Lautze started a digitization project to gather information from private and public agencies and organizations such as videos, maps and reports related to local groundwater and geothermal resources. As a researcher with the Hawaiʻi Institute for Geophysics and Planetology, she founded the Hawaiʻi Groundwater and Geothermal Resources Center to make this information publicly available.

“The intent of this web resource is to provide an informational platform for legislatures, stakeholders and the general public with a goal of encouraging innovation in water management and geothermal energy,” said Lautze. “This project has and continues to be a success, as demonstrated by the large number of users, thanks to the dedication of a large number of students.”

Lautze is currently leading a team of senior scientists in the development of an updated geothermal resource assessment across Hawaiʻi. The team compiled geological, geochemical and geophysical data across the state, developed a statistical method to integrate these data into a geothermal resource probability map, and is collecting new data to improve this map.

Hawaiʻi imports petroleum resources to meet roughly 75 percent of its energy needs, which is at high cost to the environment and the economy. The latter is exemplified by the fact that local residents pay the highest electricity prices in the nation, two and a half times the national average.

“The Hawaiʻi Legislature set a policy objective that the state be 100 percent renewable by 2045, yet not much mention of baseload electrical production (which geothermal could supply) is made in the planning to meet this objective, and surprisingly little is known about the extent of the state’s geothermal potential. My work is trying to change this. I believe geothermal energy development, done responsibly, makes a lot of sense in Hawaiʻi,” said Lautze.

More about the C3E Awards

The C3E Awards, administered by the MIT Energy Initiative and the Stanford Precourt Institute for Energy, are a key component of the U.S. Department of Energy’s implementation of C3E. Lautze received her honor at the sixth annual C3E Women in Clean Energy Symposium in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on November 15, and will receive an $8,000 award. The symposium is an opportunity to highlight her contribution to the advancement of clean energy and inspire others toward that goal.

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