Geothermal Energy Gets DOE Funding Boost

Meeting President Obama’s goal of generating 80% of U.S. electricity from clean energy sources by 2035 will require significant investment in renewable energy technologies. While solar PV and wind energy technologies tend to get the most publicity, the intermittent nature of these technologies make them unlikely to replace fossil fuel-based electricity generation on their own. Geothermal energy technologies, although often overlooked, could be a significant contributor toward meeting this goal.

To accelerate the development of geothermal energy technologies in the U.S., Energy Secretary Steven Chu has announced $38 million in awards to support 32 projects aimed at developing and testing new ways to locate geothermal resources and improve resource characterization, drilling, and reservoir engineering techniques. This funding is in addition to a $70 million award for similar projects announced in June. Funded through DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, these advancements in geothermal energy are expected to help make the technologies more cost competitive with conventional baseload electricity generation.

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The selected projects will aim to lower the cost and financial risk associated with confirming and characterizing geothermal resources, and will help to overcome key technical challenges to creating viable reservoirs and improving geothermal system sustainability. Funded projects will perform feasibility studies validated through vigorous laboratory-based research and field testing.

“The projects announced today will provide opportunities for clean energy innovations that will ensure the U.S. remains a global leader in geothermal energy development and expand the nation’s use of this important renewable energy resource,” said Secretary Chu. Awardees include Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Potter Drilling, Stanford University, Colorado School of Mines and Sandia National Laboratories. A complete list of funded projects can be found here.

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

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