Department of Energy invests $60M into three enhanced geothermal projects

Published on February 15, 2024 by Chris Galford

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Maneuvering to expand geothermal energy capabilities, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced three demonstration projects this week to receive up to $60 million in exchange for displaying the efficacy and scalability of such systems.

With funding from the Biden administration’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this effort focused on innovative pilots for enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), and builds on the goals of DOE’s Enhanced Geothermal Shot currently pushing to cut EGS costs 90 percent by 2035.

Awards were issued to Chevron New Energies, Fervo Energy and Mazama Energy.

“These projects will help us advance geothermal power, including into regions of the country where this renewable resource has never before been used,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said. “With significant investment from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, these pilot demonstrations will help us realize the full potential of the heat beneath our feet to reduce carbon emissions, create domestic jobs, and deliver clean, cost-effective, reliable energy to Americans nationwide.”

Chevron will use its funds for a pilot demonstration of new drilling and stimulation techniques to access geothermal energy in northern California. Fervo’s pilot will seek to produce at least 8 MW of power from each of three wells in Utah’s Milford Renewable Energy Corridor, where no existing commercial geothermal power production exists. Finally, Mazama will roll out a unique EGS operating at temperatures above 375 degrees Celsius on the Newberry Volcano in Oregon, to showcase EGS technological capabilities under extreme heat conditions.

Geothermal resources currently account for about 4 GW of electricity in the United States. However, according to a DOE analysis from 2023, EGS could potentially provide 90 GW of firm, flexible power for the U.S. grid by 2050. If that proved the case, it would be the same as powering more than 65 million U.S. homes. To get there, though, the administration noted that improvements and risk reduction is needed for EGS technologies, along with reductions to their cost. That’s part of why these pilots were initiated.

A future, second-round funding opportunity for such EGS demonstrations will focus on the eastern United States.