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US government awards US$338 million to accelerate geothermal energy

The US Department of Energy (DoE) will support 123 projects in 39 states, to deploy projects and develop geothermal technology.

The funding for geothermal comes from the Recovery Act to explore and develop new geothermal fields and research advanced geothermal technologies. The grant recipients include private industry, academic institutions, tribal entities, local governments, and DoE’s national laboratories, and the grants will be matched with an additional US$353 m in private and non-federal cost-share funds.

“The United States is blessed with vast geothermal energy resources which hold enormous potential to heat our homes and power our economy,” says DoE secretary Steven Chu. “These investments in America's technological innovation will allow us to capture more of this clean carbon-free energy at a lower cost than ever before. We will create thousands of jobs, boost our economy and help to jumpstart the geothermal industry across the United States.”

Collectively, the projects represent a significant expansion of the geothermal industry in the USA and will create or save thousands of jobs in drilling, exploration, construction, and operation of geothermal power facilities and manufacturing of ground source heat pump equipment.

The projects to receive support fall into 6 categories:

  1. Innovative exploration and drilling projects (US$98m): 24 projects will focus on development of new geothermal fields using sensing, exploration, and well-drilling technologies;
  2. Coproduced, geopressured and low-temperature projects (US$21m): 11 projects will develop new low-temperature geothermal fields, including geothermal heat found in thousands of oil and gas wells where 10 barrels of hot water can be produced for every barrel of oil;
  3. Enhanced geothermal systems demonstrations (US$51m): Three projects will explore, drill and develop enhanced geothermal systems to validate power production from deep hot rock resources;
  4. Enhanced geothermal systems components research and development / analysis (US$82m): 45 geothermal projects will focus on R&D of new technologies to find and drill into deep hot rock formations and convert the heat to power;
  5. Geothermal data development, collection and maintenance (US$25m): Three projects will compile a nationwide geothermal resource database to identify and assess new fields;
  6. Ground source heat pump demonstrations (US$62m): 37 projects will demonstrate the deployment of earth energy heat pumps for heating and cooling of a variety of buildings.

The DoE grants are directed at identifying and developing new geothermal fields and reducing upfront risks with development through exploration and drilling projects and data collection. In addition, the grants will support deployment and creative financing approaches for ground source heat pump demonstration projects across the country.

DoE’s Geothermal Technologies Program works with industry to establish geothermal energy as an economically competitive contributor to energy supply. The projects selected for financial award must negotiate final details and funding level with the DoE.

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