Department of Energy announces up to $84m in funding for enhanced geothermal projects
The US Department of Energy last week announced up to $84m of new funding for enhanced geothermal energy technologies, inviting applications for the grants from both technology manufacturers and geothermal project developers.
Currently, geothermal power plants in the US are limited to a few areas in the western US where geological formations mean are high subterranean temperatures are combined with easily-accessible geothermal water resources.
However, the DoE is hoping the development of so-called Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS), where wells are dug to depths of over six kilometres and artificial subterranean reservoirs are created that can be used to create steam to drive turbines, will make geothermal power plants viable in large parts of the western and southern states.
The DoE said that it would distribute up to $35m through 20 to 30 grants to academic or industrial research teams working on developing new EGS technologies and components.
An additional $49m in funding will be divided five to 10 pilot projects designed to "demonstrate and validate reservoir creation techniques" capable of generating at least 5MW of power a year over a five to seven year period.
The funding follows the launch last year of a major initiative from the Department of the Interior to make more than 190 million acres of federal land, spanning 12 western states, available for the development of geothermal energy.
Energy secretary Steven Chu said the new grants provided further evidence of the Obama administration's commitment to supporting the clean technology sector.
"President Obama has laid out an ambitious agenda to put millions of people to work by investing in clean energy technology like geothermal energy," he said. "The Administration is committed to funding important research like this to transform the way we use and produce energy and reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil."