The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $29 million of funding to support cutting-edge research into enhanced geothermal systems (EGS).

Sian Crampsie

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $29 million of funding to support cutting-edge research into enhanced geothermal systems (EGS).

The funding is part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to combat climate change and has been awarded under the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) programme, DOE said. The research will be conducted by teams at Sandia National Laboratories and the University of Utah.

EGS use energy from deep beneath the surface of the earth where there are hot rocks ideal for geothermal wells but little naturally occurring liquid to generate steam. Pumping fluids into the hot rocks creates pathways that carry heat to the earth’s surface through wells where the fluids become steam to drive turbines and generate electricity.

“Enhanced Geothermal Systems can help us tap into a vast energy resource with the potential to generate enough clean energy to power millions of homes,” said Franklin Orr, Under Secretary for Science and Energy. “In supporting this technology, the FORGE programme is advancing American leadership in clean energy innovation and could ultimately help us meet our climate and sustainability goals.”

The funding will enable each team to fully instrument, characterize and permit candidate sites for an underground laboratory to conduct cutting-edge research on EGS. The Sandia team will be working on a site in Fallon, Nevada, and the University of Utah team will be working at a site in Milford, Utah.

Investment in EGS could lead to the development of more than 100 GW of economically viable electric generating capacity in the USA, DOE said.