DOE to invest up to $12M into more efficient geothermal energy technologies

Published on May 04, 2021 by Chris Galford

© Shutterstock

As part of the larger federal push toward net zero carbon emissions, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced last week that it will spend up to $12 million on technologies that could improve the efficiency of geothermal energy systems.

While other green energy sources have received more attention in recent years, enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) are another means of renewable energy, albeit ones that are entirely man-made. Unlike traditional geothermal energy, these reservoirs have more flexibility in placement, being the product of fluid injection into rock heated by the natural warmth of the Earth’s core. Pre-existing fractures are reopened, allowing the fluid to circulate and bring heated water to the surface, creating steam for the spinning of turbines.

“Enhanced geothermal systems harness the clean, renewable energy that lives right beneath our feet—available at any time, in any weather, in any part of the country,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said. “This new funding will help us tap into its enormous potential to power millions of homes and businesses, reduce carbon emissions, and put thousands to work in greener, good-paying jobs.”

This new funding opportunity, known as Innovative Methods to Control Hydraulic Properties of Enhanced Geothermal Systems, will support research, development, demonstration, and deployment of such technologies. The goal is to create and enhance the systems that control fluid flow in EGS reservoirs, the connectivity of pre-existing fracture networks, and optimize these networks for heat mining, offering more customizability at large. Those interested must apply by June 15.

The DOE believes this will increase their efficiency and longevity, cut costs, and the risk of development overall, ultimately leading to more viable commercialization. It builds on a 2019 GeoVision study conducted by the DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) that determined such technology improvements could increase geothermal power generation by 26-fold, to 60 GW by 2050.

Only 3.7 GW of geothermal energy are currently in use by the United States.