This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

August 13, 2014

Energy Department Announces $18 Million for Projects to Advance Geothermal Energy

The Energy Department on August 6 announced up to $18 million for 32 projects that will advance geothermal energy development in the United States. The selected projects target research and development in three technology areas: advancing subsurface analysis and engineering techniques for enhanced geothermal systems (EGS)—engineered reservoirs, created beneath the surface of the Earth, where there is hot rock but limited pathways through which fluid can flow; applying a mapping approach called "play fairway analysis" to discover new geothermal resources; and accelerating extraction technologies to unlock domestic supplies of high-value materials like lithium from low- to moderate-temperature geothermal resources.

The projects include:

  • Integrated EGS R&D ($10 million): Twelve collaborative enhanced EGS research and development projects will use novel techniques such as isotope studies, innovative rock mechanics experiments, and tracer studies integrated with geophysical methods, to increase the precision and accuracy of measuring critical underground reservoir properties over time.

  • Play Fairway Analysis ($4 million): Play fairway analysis, a subsurface mapping technique already used for oil and gas exploration, helps to pinpoint where geothermal energy resources remain hidden beneath the Earth’s surface. Eleven projects will apply this analysis technique to identify prospective geothermal resources in areas with no obvious surface expression by detecting and plotting underground heat, permeability, and fluid to discover where all three are most likely to be present together.

  • Low-Temperature Geothermal Mineral Recovery Program ($4 million): Geothermal brine has the potential to contain relatively high concentrations of rare earths and other valuable materials.

Together, these projects will lower the cost and risk of geothermal development, thereby accelerating technological advancement and economical deployment of geothermal energy. See the Energy Department news release.