Study Highlights Enhanced Geothermal Systems

by | Feb 28, 2014

geothermalAn independent study has confirmed the Energy Department’s Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) belief that enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) hold great potential to provide clean energy to millions of American homes and businesses.

JASON, an independent advisory group that has historically consulted with the federal government on science and technology, conducted a comprehensive analysis of opportunities for widespread development and deployment of EGS technologies.

The JASON study supports GTO’s long-term strategy for EGS development, which includes using EGS at existing hydrothermal fields and eventually deploying the technology nationwide. The potential exists to access 5-10 gigawatts of additional electricity in the near-term. Accessing a significantly larger resource as the industry overcomes key technical challenges is possible.

The study also highlights specific opportunities to advance drilling technologies, improve subsurface characterization, and increase operational efficiency, all of which would reduce the risk and cost of EGS.

The US Geological Survey estimates this vast, untapped geothermal resource is between 100 and 500 gigawatts. The Geothermal Energy Association reported that demonstration projects were successful in the United States and Australia.

Generating electricity through EGS results in little to no greenhouse gas emissions, supplies baseload electricity without the need for energy storage technologies, and enables geothermal energy to be developed beyond the western states, where most of America’s hydrothermal sources are located.

The Energy Department recently offered a $10 million funding opportunity for research and development. DOE also intends to issue a funding opportunity for an EGS field lab called the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE).

To generate renewable power around the clock, EGS projects capture energy from intensely hot rocks, buried thousands of feet below the surface, that lack the permeability or fluid saturation found in naturally occurring geothermal systems.

Photo: Idaho National Laboratory Flickr photostream

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