DOE Energy Earthshot Aims To Cut Geothermal Power Costs

The Department of Energy’s fourth energy Earthshot plans to slash the cost of enhanced geothermal systems by 90% by 2035.

 

geothermal energy
Wairakei geothermal power station, New Zealand. (Photo: Adobe Stock – NMint)

The Department of Energy (DOE) intents to make enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) a widespread renewable energy option in the U.S. by cutting its cost by 90% to $45 per megawatt hour by 2035.

The Enhanced Geothermal Shot DOE’s seeks to unlock the Earth’s nearly inexhaustible heat resources to provide reliable, clean power to American communities and expand opportunities for a robust domestic geothermal industry. More than five terawatts of heat resources—enough to meet the electricity needs of the entire world—exist in the United States. EGS can enable technologies for widespread deployment of geothermal heating and cooling, which will further allow buildings and whole communities to decarbonize.

“The United States has a vast, geothermal energy resource lying right beneath our feet, and this program will make it economical to bring that power to American households and businesses,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “DOE’s Enhanced Geothermal Shot will move geothermal technology from research and development to cost-effective commercial adoption, helping energy communities and workers transition to producing clean energy for the future.”

What Is EGS?

EGS is a young technology with the potential to become a powerhouse of U.S. economic growth, especially for rural communities. Most geothermal jobs are inherently local and relate to well drilling and construction, which must be performed by a domestic workforce. The geothermal industry and workforce are also similar to oil and gas, presenting an opportunity to transition skilled workers, as well as entire communities, and equipment from fossil fuels to clean energy.

Geothermal energy currently generates about 3.7 gigawatts of electricity in the United States, but a substantial amount of geothermal energy is not accessible with current technology. Research and innovation to advance EGS drilling, and engineering can unlock those resources and put new, clean electricity on the grid. Simplified, EGS is a process of creating human-made underground reservoirs, which is accomplished by injecting fluid deep underground into naturally heated rocks that otherwise lack the fluid flow necessary to draw geothermal energy to the surface.

EGS resources are located deep underground, at least 4,000 ft. Conditions are extreme—hot temperatures, hot and abrasive rocks, and a corrosive environment—and come with significant unknowns. The Enhanced Geothermal Shot seeks to address these challenges by aggressively accelerating research, development, and demonstrations to better understand the subsurface, improve engineering to drill more wells faster, and capture more energy with larger wells and power plants.

The Fourth Energy Earthshot

The Enhanced Geothermal Shot is the fourth Shot announced in DOE’s Energy Earthshots Initiative to help break down the biggest remaining scientific and technical barriers to tackling the climate crisis. The Enhanced Geothermal Shot will build on DOE’s EGS research and development and demonstration work, including at FORGE in Utah, the current flagship of DOE’s EGS research.

DOE plans to hold an Enhanced Geothermal Shot Summit to engage state and local communities, industry, and other stakeholders. It will continue to partner with other Federal Agencies such as the National Science Foundation to advance the state of the art and develop the workforce needed to support the clean energy transition.

Learn more about the Enhanced Geothermal Shot and DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Office.

Click here to learn more about Geothermal energy. 

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