U.S. DOE Announces $29 Million Investment in Enhanced Geothermal Systems Efforts

Desert Peak Enhanced Geothermal system
Nevada-based industry partner Ormat Technologies leveraged DOE funds to deploy the nation's first commercial EGS at Desert Peak, Nevada. photo courtesy of Ormat

As part of the Obama Administration’s continued commitment to the President’s Climate Action Plan, the Energy Department today announced $29 million in funding under the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) program for projects awarded to teams at Sandia National Laboratories and the University of Utah. The funding will be for each team to fully instrument, characterize and permit candidate sites for an underground laboratory to conduct cutting-edge research on enhanced geothermal systems (EGS). The Sandia team will be working on a site in Fallon, Nevada, and the University of Utah team will be working at a site in Milford, Utah.  

“Enhanced Geothermal Systems can help us tap into a vast energy resource with the potential to generate enough clean energy to power millions of homes,” said Franklin Orr, Under Secretary for Science and Energy. “In supporting this technology, the FORGE program is advancing American leadership in clean energy innovation and could ultimately help us meet our climate and sustainability goals.”

The Energy Department, with the support of the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), awarded funding to these two teams after a competitive first phase of research to evaluate potential EGS underground research sites. The candidate sites announced today in Nevada and Utah will use this new funding to prepare for the competitive third phase of the FORGE effort, which will designate one of the sites as the headquarters for the future underground field lab.

EGS have the potential to unlock access to domestic, geographically diverse and carbon-free sources of clean energy by using heat from the earth to generate renewable electricity in areas without naturally occurring geothermal resources.

“Nevada will be the perfect location for the Department of Energy’s new FORGE laboratory,” said Senator Harry Reid. “The nation’s lab for advancing geothermal energy belongs in Nevada and will further establish Nevada as a leader in renewable energy. Enhanced Geothermal Systems are the next frontier in clean energy, and are an enormous opportunity for the Silver State’s economic growth. I thank President Obama and Secretary Moniz for their ongoing commitment to expanding the scale and bene fits of geothermal energy all across the country.”

EGS are the means by which resources are accessed from deep beneath the surface of the earth where there are hot rocks ideal for geothermal wells but little naturally occurring liquid to generate steam. Pumping fluids into the hot rocks creates pathways that carry heat to the earth’s surface through wells where the fluids become steam to drive turbines and generate electricity. Investing in EGS technologies today could eventually lead to more than 100 gigawatts (GW) of economically viable electric generating capacity in the continental United States, representing an increase of two orders of magnitude over present geothermal capacity, which currently stands at 3.5 GW.

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