The US Department of Energy (US DOE) has agreed to provide up to $140m in funding to the University of Utah for geothermal energy research and development (R&D).


Image: The Sonoma Calpine 3 geothermal power plant at The Geysers field in the Mayacamas Mountains of Somona County, Northern California. Photo: Courtesy of Stepheng3/

A site outside of Milford, Utah, has been selected as the location of the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) field laboratory, where the University of Utah will carry out research on enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), or manmade geothermal reservoirs.

The DOE said EGS are needed in the US because they will allow geothermal development in areas other than the western states.

Conventional geothermal resources put around 3.8GW of electricity on the grid in the western states.

On the other hand, the DOE stated that manmade geothermal reservoirs can be engineered wherever hot rocks are found and does not depend on the co-location of heat, permeability and fluid deep underground.

The DOE expects EGS to expand geothermal energy production, as there are an estimated 100 GW of currently inaccessible resources.

At FORGE, scientists and researchers can gain knowledge on how to engineer man-made systems.

The geothermal community is expected to gain fundamental understanding of the key mechanisms controlling EGS success; develop, test, and enhance new techniques in an ideal EGS environment; and rapidly disseminate technical data and communicate to the public.

US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said: “Enhanced geothermal systems are the future of geothermal energy, and critical investments in EGS will help advance American leadership in clean energy innovation.

“Funding efforts toward the next frontier in geothermal energy technologies will help diversify the United States’ domestic energy portfolio, enhance our energy access, and increase our energy security.”

In April this year, DOE announced a funding of $14.5m in geothermal energy development. The Efficient Drilling for Geothermal Energy (EDGE) funding opportunity announcement (FOA) will focus on geothermal drilling and help in accelerating research and development of new technologies in the US.

The funding will focus on three areas including the reduction of common delays in drilling operations, new drilling techniques to improve the rate of penetration for drilling geothermal wells.

It will also focus on exploring new ideas or approaches and models to accelerate the transfer of geothermal drilling and related technologies from laboratory to real world.