Steven Chu, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary has announced up to $338 million in Recovery Act funding for the exploration and development of new geothermal fields as well as for research into advanced geothermal technologies. The newly announced grants will be awarded to 123 projects in 39 states and will be matched more than one-for-one with an additional $353 million in private and non-Federal cost-share funds, for a total grant pool of $691 million. This is a pretty big number and represents a major investment in a promising and yet often overlooked renewable energy resource. Recipients of the new grant funding include private industry, academic institutions, tribal entities, local governments, and DOE’s National Laboratories.
“The United States is blessed with vast geothermal energy resources, which hold enormous potential to heat our homes and power our economy,” said Secretary 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.”
These new funding, announced by the DOE is directed towards identifying and developing new geothermal fields – which are concentrated in the western half of the US land mass — and reducing the upfront risk associated with geothermal development through innovative exploration and drilling projects and data development and collection.
In addition, the grants will support the deployment and creative financing approaches for geothermal heat pumps (GHP) demonstration projects across the country. This addresses one of the major barriers to the wider adoption of this renewable energy technology, which is the high initial cost of the outer ground source loop required by GHPs.
For an in depth look into geothermal heat pumps also known as ground source heat pump see our post on this subject: Geothermal Heat Pumps: Good for the Bottom Line, Good for the Nation and Good for the Earth
Put together, these projects will represent a dramatic expansion of the investment in the U.S. geothermal industry. They 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 Six Categories of New Funding for Geothermal Projects
The newly announced grant funding for geothermal energy falls into six categories that are listed below.
Innovative Exploration and Drilling Projects (up to $98.1 million): Twenty-four projects have been selected focusing on the development of new geothermal fields using innovative sensing, exploration, and well-drilling technologies.
Coproduced, Geopressured, and Low Temperature Projects (up to $20.7 million): Eleven projects have been selected for the development of new low-temperature geothermal fields, a vast but currently untapped set of geothermal resources. This includes geothermal heat found in the hundreds of thousands of oil and gas wells around the U.S., where up to ten barrels of hot water are produced for every barrel of oil. By far most of this potential thermal energy is currently wasted.
Enhanced Geothermal Systems Demonstrations (up to $51.4 million): Three projects have been selected for the exploration, drilling and development of enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) to validate power production from deep hot rock resources using innovative technologies and approaches.
Enhanced Geothermal Systems Components Research and Development / Analysis (up to $81.5 million): Forty-five projects have been selected to focus on research and development of new technologies to find and drill into deep hot rock formations, stimulate enhanced geothermal reservoirs, and convert the heat to power.
For those who are interested in exploring the subject of enhanced geothermal in greater depth see our post on this subject: Fracking Geothermal
Geothermal Data Development, Collection and Maintenance (up to $24.6 million): Three projects have been selected for the population of a comprehensive nationwide geothermal resource database to help identify and assess new fields.
Ground Source Heat Pump Demonstrations (up to $61.9 million): Thirty-seven projects have been selected to demonstrate the deployment of ground source heat pumps for heating and cooling of a variety of buildings for a variety of customer types, including academic institutions, local governments and commercial buildings.
For our readers who are interested here is a link to the DOE (pdf) document that provides the list of all 231 projects that were awarded DOE grants
© 2009, Chris de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.