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DOE Awards $338 Million to Speed Geothermal Energy Development
Binary power plants, such as this geothermal facility in Empire, Nevada, can draw power from relatively low-temperature geothermal resources. Enlarge this image.
DOE announced on October 29 that it will award up to $338 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for the exploration and development of new geothermal fields and for research into advanced geothermal technologies. The grants will support 123 projects in 39 states, with recipients including private industry, academic institutions, tribal entities, local governments, and DOE national laboratories. The grants will be matched with an additional $353 million in private and non-federal cost-share funds. Of the 123 projects, 24 will employ innovative exploration and drilling technologies and 3 will involve geothermal data development, collection, and maintenance to build a national geothermal resource database. In addition, 37 projects will support the deployment of ground source heat pumps across the country, including creative financing approaches for the installations. Ground source heat pumps use relatively stable ground temperatures to serve as a heat source and sink when heating and cooling buildings.
The remaining grants will go toward producing power and heat from new geothermal resources, including deep hot rock and low-temperature resources. Three projects will demonstrate enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), which involve finding deep hot rock resources, drilling into them, developing a geothermal reservoir by injecting high-pressure water into the rock, and then drilling a separate well to extract the hot water and convert it into electricity. Another 45 projects will develop the technologies needed for EGS projects. The final 11 projects will aim to develop low-temperature geothermal resources. Two projects will try to produce power from the hot water produced by oil and gas wells, two will use low-temperature technologies to produce more power from existing geothermal power plants, and five will use low-temperature geothermal resources for power production and for heating. The final project will investigate power production from geopressured brines, hot salty fluids under high pressure that often contain a large amount of dissolved natural gas. In the United States, geopressured brines are found along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast, and the new project will demonstrate the feasibility of a geopressured plant in the southwestern corner of Louisiana. See the DOE press release, the project list (PDF 163 KB), and DOE's Geothermal Technologies Program Web site. Download Adobe Reader.