US DOE announces first selections in enhanced geothermal effort

The US Department of Energy has announced five projects for the first part of the multiphase Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) effort.
US DOE announces first selections in enhanced geothermal effort

The FORGE initiative is part of President Obama’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy. A total of $2 million will be awarded for the first phase which is dedicated to cutting-edge research on enhanced geothermal systems (EGS). This could potentially unlock a domestic, geographically diverse and carbon free source of clean energy which could in turn supply up to 100 million homes in the US. The first two phases of FORGE will provide up to $31 million over two years for selected teams.

“Through these kinds of critical investments in renewable energy, the Department is helping develop cost-effective technologies for engineering geothermal systems that supply affordable, zero-carbon energy to millions of American homes and businesses” said Under Secretary for Science and Energy Lynn Orr. “Enhanced geothermal systems could represent the next frontier of renewable energy and hold the potential to diversify the nation’s energy portfolio while reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.”

EGS are engineered geothermal reservoirs that are created beneath the earth’s surface where there is hot rock but limited pathways through which fluid can flow. Underground fluid pathways are created safely in order to allow fluid to circulate through hot rock and subsequently rise to the surface to generate electricity. EGS development could lead to more than 100 GW of electrical generating capacity across the US, representing a two-orders-of-magnitude increase over present geothermal capacity.

FORGE will consist of three phases, the first two of which will concentrate on selecting a site and an operations team as well as preparing and characterising the site. The five teams announced by the DOE represent proposed projects in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah. These teams will spend the next year completing technical and logistical tasks in order to demonstrate site viability and the team’s capability of meeting the FORGE objectives. They will also develop plans for Phase 2.

Phase 1 tasks include conceptual geologic modelling and the creation of comprehensive plans for data dissemination, intellectual property, environmental, health and safety information, communications and outreach, stakeholder engagement, R&D implementation, and environmental management. The three teams selected next year for Phase 2 will work to fully instrument, characterize, and permit candidate sites for full-scale operations at FORGE in the third and final phase. This phase will fund the full implementation of FORGE at a single site, managed by one operations team and guided by a collaborative research strategy. It will be executed by annual R&D solicitations designed to improve, optimize, and drive down the costs of deploying EGS. Partners from industry, academia, and the national laboratories will have ongoing opportunities to conduct new and innovative R&D at the site in critical research areas such as reservoir characterization, reservoir creation, and reservoir sustainability.

For additional information:

US Department of Energy (DOE)

Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE)

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