DOE Accelerates Geothermal Research

hot spring geyser at Yellowstone National Park
Power from the Earth.
(cc) Alan Hikes

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu has announced up to $338 million in Recovery Act funding for the exploration and development of new geothermal fields and research into advanced geothermal technologies. These grants will support 123 projects in 39 states, with recipients including private industry, academic institutions, tribal entities, local governments, and DOE’s national laboratories. The grants will be matched more than one-for-one with an additional $353 million in private and non-Federal cost-share funds.

“The United States is blessed with vast geothermal energy resources, which hold enormous potential to heat our homes and power our economy,” said Secretary Chu. “These investments in America’s technological innovation will allow us to capture more of this clean, carbon free energy at a lower cost than ever before. We will create thousands of jobs, boost our economy and help to jumpstart the geothermal industry across the United States.”

These grants are directed towards identifying and developing new geothermal fields and reducing the upfront risk associated with geothermal development through innovative exploration and drilling projects and data development and collection. In addition, the grants will support the deployment and creative financing approaches for ground source heat pump demonstration projects across the country.

Collectively, these projects will represent a dramatic expansion of the U.S. geothermal industry and will create or save thousands of jobs in drilling, exploration, construction, and operation of geothermal power facilities and manufacturing of ground source heat pump equipment.

The projects selected for negotiation of awards fall in six categories:

  • Innovative Exploration and Drilling Projects (up to $98.1 million): Twenty-four projects have been selected focusing on the development of new geothermal fields using innovative sensing, exploration, and well-drilling technologies.
  • Coproduced, Geopressured, and Low Temperature Projects (up to $20.7 million): Eleven projects have been selected for the development of new low-temperature geothermal fields, a vast but currently untapped set of geothermal resources. This includes geothermal heat found in the hundreds of thousands of oil and gas wells around the United States, where up to ten barrels of hot water are produced for every barrel of oil.
  • Enhanced Geothermal Systems Demonstrations (up to $51.4 million): Three projects have been selected for the exploration, drilling and development of enhanced geothermal systems to validate power production from deep hot rock resources using innovative technologies and approaches.
  • Enhanced Geothermal Systems Components Research and Development/Analysis (up to $81.5 million): Forty-five projects have been selected to focus on research and development of new technologies to find and drill into deep hot rock formations, stimulate enhanced geothermal reservoirs, and convert the heat to power.
  • Geothermal Data Development, Collection and Maintenance (up to $24.6 million): Three projects have been selected for the population of a comprehensive nationwide geothermal resource database to help identify and assess new fields.
  • Ground Source Heat Pump Demonstrations (up to $61.9 million): Thirty-seven projects have been selected to demonstrate the deployment of ground source heat pumps for heating and cooling of a variety of buildings for a variety of customer types, including academic institutions, local governments, and commercial buildings.

DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Program works in partnership with U.S. industry to establish geothermal energy as an economically competitive contributor to the U.S. energy supply.

Read Geothermal Power Plants: Principles, Applications, Case Studies and Environmental Impact from Amazon.